This Would Suck a Lot Less is the understated title of Chandra Bocci's hulking cardboard and plastic soldier diorama, which was recently transferred from the Portland Building to the Orlo Gallery, where it is on view until June 21.
TWSALL is a wonderfully complex planar structure, as if a wadded-up ball of paper (or a John Chamberlain sculpture) had been magnified to elephantine proportions (about eight feet tall and eleven feet in diameter). Humorous green shrubs and convincing bristly pine trees made from thinly sliced Sprite boxes in Bocci's signature style litter the landscape. And of course, swarms and swarms of green army men are engaged in Spielbergian theatrics of pillow warfare. They are swinging handcrafted, thumbnail-sized pillows, either pink with white hearts, or a Midwest blue and yellow cornflower pattern. And it's quite a battle they're waging. The Flower gang has control of the two small, surrounding mountains and is advancing on the Heart's mountaintop fort. Bocci's soldiers dangle precariously off mountain cliffs, belly crawl in formation with pillows strapped to their backs, shred pillows in tug-of-war contests, and even do Matrix-like flying kicks into the enemy's groins. Bocci has painted the walls sky blue and suspended clouds of crumpled white paper from the ceiling, as well as various hovercraft, which drop pillow bombs. Also in keeping with the artist's signature technique, wisps of hot glue thread abound, like the webs of a furious spider.
So just how political is This Would Suck a Lot Less? As far as political artwork goes, it's light fare. One could point out that the cardboard terrain in dispute is a consumer driven, ravaged human construct--a commentary on economic motives and geo-political boundaries. And there's the more humanistic issue of all the soldiers being identical except for their weapons, which doesn't need much explanation. So as an example of anti-war artwork TWSALL falls short, but as a narrative sculptural installation, it exceeds on many fronts: unique use of materials, humor, ambitious scale. It's a charming diorama that completely succeeds at what sculpture is uniquely qualified to do: it kept not only my eyeballs, but also my body in constant motion, crossing enemy lines, peeking over mountain ranges and peering into cardboard canyons. CHAS BOWIE