Before setting foot in the Cooley Gallery, the presence of a major exhibition on campus is heralded on Reed College's front lawn. Austrian artist Marko Lulic's "Edifice Complex"—an enormous, bright pink steel sculpture of just those two words—calls attention to the cluster of buildings surrounding it and, of course, perpetrates that architecturally inflected Freudian slip. And while there's a sight-gag directness to the piece, it also serves as an appropriate introduction to both Lulic and the Brooklyn-based artist Peter Kreider, whose work shares the newly renovated gallery. Importantly, the pun on "Oedipus complex" is a playful linguistic inversion, but it also reveals the artists' tendencies to honor acknowledged "forefathers," from the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to the inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla, as well as the make-it-new sensibilities of revolutionary movements. Like the Oedipal male child who desires his mother and wants to kill his father, they are seduced by the artistic and conceptual predecessors they often seek to destroy.
This sentiment is most readily seen in Lulic's work. In one half of the gallery, his painted steel sculpture "Corner (black)" creates a skeletal partition enclosing two of the gallery's walls, designating the area as a kind of theater. Echoing the "Edifice Complex" sculpture, one wall is painted solid pink with the stenciled phrase "Social housing for billionaires." On the other, his video "The Moderns," a montage of Modernist buildings in Vienna, is projected. On the one hand, these works pay homage to the mix of utopian idealism, intellectual theory, and aesthetic daring that characterized Modern architecture. "Corner" is a re-creation of a portion of architect Albert Frey's "House No. 1," built in Palm Springs in 1940. And the buildings Lulic records in his video are stunning in their construction, from geometric austerity to expressive, undulating contours. But as the cynical "Social housing for billionaires" message looms over the theater space, it mocks the tenets on which these buildings were constructed. Likewise, Lulic lampoons the self-importance and style of Modernist writings and manifestoes in his narration to "The Moderns." Speaking obsolete-sounding maxims such as "Not only was there a new way of building, but living" and "One has to say good-bye to tradition here," he seems caught between skeptical dismissal of Modern ideologies and an eagerness to believe in them.
Kreider tends to sublimate his interest in the catalyzing force of movements into metaphor. In a photograph titled "Pleural (Ballantine)," he depicts such palpable energy. Here, an emerald-green glass bottle houses some sort of explosive reaction, as a hive-like formation of bubbles erupts inside. More spectacularly executed is the sculpture "Restless Attractor." An alleged manifestation of Tesla's unrealized dreams, the piece is an unwieldy assemblage of over-sized plugs and electrical cords. Rendered in bright oranges, yellows, and pinks, it conjures an amplified molecular model as much as a jungle gym. But as a paperclip is lodged into one of the adaptors, Kreider's sculpture generates a sense of comic danger that, like Lulic's critique of the Moderns, undermines Tesla's vision while participating in it.