Jim Neidhardt 

Triple Threat in a Negative Space
Blackfish Gallery

Tucked away in the back of Blackfish Gallery, local artist Jim Neidhardt's installation pays tribute to the internalized rage of the workaday existence by recreating his own version of the post-five o'clock refuge. His space contains all the usual accoutrements: a ragged easy chair, reading lamp, newspaper, and dimly glowing television set. The scene's only omission is a can of cheap domestic beer. Still, Neidhardt's interior is more dystopian than escapist. Instead of a single television broadcasting the anticipated mind-numbing programming, here, stream-of-consciousness text scrolls on three adjacent monitors. As the words pass by silently, it's akin to reading the closed caption subtitles of a lunatic's rant. All the irrational vitriol is there, but, detached from a speaker, its curmudgeonly observations and buck-spray accusations become muted and laughably tame. In this environment, the lounging viewer is barred from relaxation or distraction, but treated instead to a confrontation with the nagging frustrations within.

According to Neidhardt, the text is inspired by the writings of the "radical monologist" Thomas Bernhard, and is preoccupied with three themes: art, dogs, and authority. So at any given moment, a viewer receives three simultaneous, albeit disconnected messages: "Everything in America has been dumbed down to its lowest level"; dogs "have been mistakenly called man's best friend when in fact they are our worst enemies"; and "every brushstroke, however inspired, by the so-called masters is a lie." While his three main targets are unmistakably clear, they are also not-so-subtly echoed in the three framed pictures that hang in the makeshift room: the "Mona Lisa," a portrait of a droopy-eared Springer Spaniel, and an upside-down photograph of President Bush.

Unfortunately, this representation of life in a media-saturated age is far too tidily organized to capture the chaos of sensory overload. Neidhardt's monologues float by at a manageable clip, and their content is too linear to approximate how thoughts erupt and dead-end unexpectedly. In all, the connections that Triple Threat begins to draw never fully materialize and when they do, they buckle under the weight of uncomplicated directness. Where the installation could have bored deeply into the contradictory impulses of passive escapism and frustration-induced anger, its superficial treatment does the opposite: It just bores.

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