While You Were Sleeping is presumably the scattered fragments left over from a night spent in the worst kind of REM sleep. But the works’ free-form juxtapositions seem to stem more from fantasy than anything based in reality—and the worst nightmares are based in reality.
Artist Jared Antonio-Justo Trujillo’s works come in thematic pairs, and each work is further divided into two separate parts: an image and an illustration, for the most part. A black-and-white archival pigment print of a waifish model greets gallerygoers as they enter. Muted exoskeletons of invertebrates overlay the composition; “La Mode Fashion Countdown” is written faintly and backward above her head.
At the middle of the gallery, another model—called such for both her beauty and the gorgeous, fashion-magazine style in which she is photographed—peeks out from under a cloak of black hair, while illustrations of fun-loving skulls dance across the canvas. Her smeared eyeliner and absent facial expression recall the spirit from The Grudge, but lack the movie’s gripping horror.
Undulating filigree encroaches on many of the works and, in some cases, makes up a whole piece, as is the case with the vinyl installations stuck straight onto the white walls. At their worst, the patterns resemble embroidery mercilessly found on long-sleeve button-ups in clubs across America. At their best, they are an illustrative, subdued manifestation of the dread of nightmares—sleep unnecessary—and resemble many mildly frightening elements: cyborgs, computers, offices, aliens, insects and interconnectivity, among others.
The sole aluminum work, No. 28 extends several inches from the wall and is backlit with LED lights. It is a tangle of filigree, and it looks something like a dragon and lion battling with an explosion in the background. In No. 23, a work of black-filigreed vinyl placed directly on the walls, a loose image of a man built of machines and urchins purges a stream of birds. He is literally and figuratively made up of his component parts.
Perhaps the colorful Chinese dragon heads in No. 20 and 21—a pair of pairs—provide the key to the filigree found in so much of the exhibition. The dragon heads are split in half and placed separately. Rivulets of related colors spiral and snake out of each half of their faces, presumably the nightmare equivalent of the Chinese dragons, the translations of images in bad dreams.
In No. 17, an archival pigment print on diabond is rendered in pointalism. It shows a man with a gun to his head while the black swirls found in the other works creep toward him. The piece again contains backward text (for those of us who can’t read in dreams) and a crazed expression, but it’s the more iconified Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas variety. The image is subversive but, in its adherence to a pop-culture sense of nightmares, it loses the emotion that would make it seem possible or real.
Dreams and nightmares are personal. However, lacking titles, these works fail to illuminate even the psyche of the artist. Instead of a dark cloud devouring the edges of one’s day after a too-real nightmare, the exhibition is a brisk walk through a fun house. It’s mildly unsettling, but one knows the rest of the carnival is just outside. While You Were Sleeping is too dark for whimsy, too whimsical to be real. Perhaps it’s a nightmare, but it’s someone else’s.