It’s not for the elitist—to use a term now much in vogue—to judge The Bridge’s current group show. Snobbery won’t warm to the punky, screw-your-MFA attitude of some of these artists; refined tastes might wince at these garish hues; believers in tight curation will note more than a few pieces they might have left out. But who needs those jerks anyway?
The show is curated by one Colin L, a driving force behind now-defunct DIY music venue Pudhouse, and the outlaw spirit of that place crackles over the airwaves at The Bridge. (Also, in a more literal sense, show posters and videos from the Pudhouse fill the gallery’s smaller room.) You sense that Colin L is both excited and bemused by the official gallery setting. And if it’s rebellious fun to put something like Dearraindrop’s insta-doodles of the state of Virginia and Jabba the Hut on the wall, it’s also true that being rough around the edges is perfectly authentic to an indie-music dude with a lot of creative friends.
It’s a lot to look at: a carnival of the absurd, the obscene and the tacky, put to unexpectedly touching ends.
So what’s the work like? A lot of it’s candy-colored, made of cheap materials like yarn and shiny paper, reminiscent of Saturday cartoons. (Heather Maxwell, for one, seems to be a grown-up Girl Scout channeling a childhood of macramé and jelly bracelets; that’s not to say that some of her pieces aren’t charming, like the “hanging fabric cradle” that makes you want to put something inside for safekeeping—your donuts or maybe your kittycat.) Other artists round out the show with a more sober sensibility.
Then there are Shawn Thornton’s two oil-on-panel pieces, which no elitist could dismiss out of hand. Each is an 11" square, a dense and appealing jungle of primary-color shapes, icon-style figures (a penguin on a unicycle, a skeleton), concentric circles and dots and bars. Very few elements are bigger than your fingernail, but if Thompson is an obsessive doodler, he nonetheless knows from composition. Initially confronting an even, 2D wall of color, the viewer gradually perceives a higher level of organization. And so the title “Black Pyramid Meditation” turns out to be surprisingly appropriate, despite the visual cacophony.
Other standouts: R. Nicholas Kuszyk’s series of small cartoon paintings of alien/robot creatures, Tom Hohmann’s altered T-shirt, Moosejaw’s large, abstract black-and-white photocopies. It’s a lot to look at: a carnival of the absurd, the obscene and the tacky, put to unexpectedly touching ends. Partly it’s that the show conjures a lost local music scene that lots of people cared about. But it’s not only that.