small A projects, 1430 SE 3rd, through Dec 23
We are currently living in the age of Awkward Sweetness, AKA the New Sincerity. The movement, most notably codified in the film Me and You and Everyone We Know and LearningToLoveYouMore.com, is a close cousin of the emo trend. Born from the ashes of the Mike Kelley abject/pathetic '90s and in direct opposition to the ironic nihilism of the Todd Solondz generation, Awkward Sweetness prizes sincerity above all else. This New Sincerity is achieved with fumbling adolescent trappings wherein humble offerings (a cupcake, say) trump anything that smacks of polish.
For a prime example of how the New Sincerity manifests itself in the art world, see Will Rogan's Getting Through at small A projects. Comprised mostly of color photographs, the San Francisco artist's work typifies an amateur snapshot aesthetic; enlargement to reveal unsightly film grain, static compositions, and point-and-shoot flash illuminations all conspire to make the work an affront to "good" photography. This is not to say, however, that they are not good photographs. Had they been presented as hyper-professional, zone system prints, the effect would be like hearing Wayne Newton covering a Joanna Newsom tune.
"Pocket" shows a minivan snuggling like a perfect jigsaw piece into a quirky architectural parking spot. In "Species of Spaces," a hand pokes through a mail slot. And "Safe" presents a shattered pane of glass, marked with a polite note that reassures visitors, "You are safe." Though consciously bereft of graphic finesse, these images pack emotional wallops. A video and pinball sculpture in the gallery's backroom illustrates some of Rogan's other artistic forays, but seems supplementary to the main photo installation. The final verdict about Rogan's work and New Sincerity will be determined by your own preferences, of course. Will the Awkward Sweetness movement strike you as overdue and refreshingly honest, or does it come across as simply treacly? As for me—I have a sweet tooth as long as anybody's, but irony and healthy cynicism run too deep in my veins to give up cold turkey.