A Devil To Pay – Ghost of a Dream at CES Gallery
By Genie Davis
Through March 5th
Hypnotic and haunting, “A Devil To Pay,” at CES Gallery through March 5th, is the visually seductive work of Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was, collaboratively known as Ghost of a Dream.
The pair, who met at the Rhode Island School of Design, work with discarded materials, often dealing, as here, with an overweening, decaying opulence. “A Devil to Pay” is both installation, collage, and sculpture. The dimensionality of the show creates its own world, one shaped from an almost psychedelic array of discarded carpets, playing cards, and other color saturated glowing detritus. The immediate impression upon entering the gallery is that of disorientation: the mismatched colors and patterns vibrate like images on an analog television screen, it’s colors overly saturated.
If “Ghost of a Dream” has set out to disorient and create abstract surrealism, the artists succeed. Discordant florals and paisleys are cut at irregular angles; collages on panels form patches of lines and wave patterns that intercede throughout creating an exhibition that is a pastiche of colors and shapes. The brightness and buzziness seems to surround the viewer, a perfect stand-in for the non-stop slot machine bombardment of a Las Vegas casino.
The striped patterns of “By the way they held their eyes” resembles pyramids, alien life forms, prisms, geometry. The textured quality of the work evokes 60s era pop art, while at the same time linking television test patterns with Rohrshach test imagery. This is optical illusion as art. Similarly, “Don’t want to Hold On” snakes and vibrates in pink, lavender, and white, a rich and seductive, sinuous work shaped from used playing cards on panel. “Too Long Overdue Now I’m Going to Shoot the Moon” is a similarly created work in a vibrant aquamarine shade that shimmers and glows. Like much of the exhibition, the piece has an unearthly quality; it’s created from man’s materials but somehow too mysterious to be of man. Or try “For a taste of your whiskey,” white and stark, a blue print for a monument to another world’s society. Reds, pinks, and purples are back in “You Only Live Twice.” Here the peaks and valleys created by used playing cards reminds viewers of the patterns on a heart monitor.
Taken as a visual whole, the installation is both curved and draped, and dramatically, erratically cut and hung; the effect is of entering a world in which fun house mirrors are the norm. Looked at individually, the colors and patterns, the clever use of used playing cards, the interlocking and overlapping of patterns all suggest artifacts from some upside-down world.
Drink deep from the visual absinthe of this art. The devil may be paying for this round, but the players taking their chances are dizzy with disoriented hope. This is a world of illusion, glamor subverted, a mysterious landscape found in casino drinks and fitful sleep. Described by the gallery as an exhibition that “simultaneously quells and reawakens the want-satisfying power of goods and services that help to create American identity,” the exhibition’s meaning seems based on perspective.
There is a seductive, compulsive beauty in the kitsch and color; there is a trance-like feel to the works on panel created from used playing cards, there are patterns that demand study to find meaning, even if the meaning floats just out of reach.
“A Devil to Pay” takes the surreal and casts it in an accessible light; takes the discards of our need and greed and makes them into something strange and beautiful.
When the little green men in space ships arrive, it should come as no surprise that they are art lovers.
CES Gallery is located at 711 Mateo Street.