Haze Gallery, 6635 N Baltimore, Suite 210, Closing Party Friday Oct 29, 8pm
For Chandra Bocci's generation--which is also my own--childhood reality was defined by G.I. Joe action figures, Rainbow Bright, and video games. We believed sugary drinks would imbue us with secret powers and that happiness was just a plastic-encased toy awayÉ then we all got older.
While the imagery of a childhood in the '80s has been enjoying an awkward comeback for some time now, the results seem bipolar. Either we had it all back then and it's gone (defeatist naiveté) or we can't even comprehend our cartoon-junkie-mini-materialist past outside of laughing at it (frightened irony).
Bocci's installation, Bubble Speak, turns Haze Gallery into a fantasy world where these extremes collide like a pair of Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots. Six hundred feet of Otter Pops and wire are strung together to form a huge rainbow, which emerges from one corner of the gallery, twists and turns, then disappears in a soft explosion of vinyl clouds. Islands of synthetic grass and flowers are constructed out of green fleece dryer sheets. A yellow brick road built of 8,000 mustard packets navigates the candy-coated, otherworldly space.
In one sense, it seems easily categorized as over-the-top and nostalgic. But the commercial and artificial nature of the installation adds a subtle, sinister tinge. This rainbow landscape is not real. Artificial flavors and super-soft cottons never evolved into the promised utopia. (Will I die like a postmodern Charles Foster Kane, whispering the words "Mario Brothers" while a broken 8-bit Nintendo controller drops from my hand to the floor?)
Each artistic generation since Warhol has dealt with the consumerist promises of its youth. In many ways, Bubble Speak recalls the giant soft sculptures of Claus Oldenburg, whose giant hamburgers and ice cream cones both celebrated and critiqued the insane beauty and beautiful insanity of popular culture. Bocci's installation is playfully ambitious in scale and content. It risks being easily misunderstood, but it will transport open-minded viewers (under the age of 35) to an imaginary place that conjures the fantastic, contradictory wonder of our formative years.