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jeff-badger-why-not
6/6/6 is a great grouping of artists. Why not show more of their work?
Jeff Badger, “Why Not?”

More or Less

6/6/6 tries to take a big bite with few teeth

February 16, 2011, 1:00 am
What 6/6/6 surfeits in concept (“six artists, six cities, six connections”), it lacks in size and thematic links. The artists are Amanda Curreri, Joanne Lefrak, Carl Baratta,  Kathy Leisen, Dan Schank and Jeff Badger; their cities are San Francisco, Santa Fe, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Portland, respectively (the show travels in that order); the connections are the weakest—that each artist contacted the next until all six were on board. There are only 18 pieces (ideally three per artist, but not in practice) and they’re a solid bunch, but the connections seem to go no further than phone tag, at least not as far as one can tell given the limited number of works. As is, the connection conceit limits an otherwise wide-reaching exhibition.

Curreri’s “Desire Drawing, New Love” is a single work. The collage on vintage paper is a satisfying overlay of striped and translucent paper with an egg-shaped blank space at its center. Santa Fe’s connection and the concept’s progenitor, Lefrak similarly exhibits just one piece. Culled from her exhibition at Box Gallery last year, “Trinity Site, Ground” is an ethereal desertscape created by the cast shadows of Lefrak’s delicate etchings on Plexiglas, and is pleasantly understated in everything but name. Both artists employ works of emotional distance to powerful concepts.

Baratta’s richly colored works are the most visually striking of the exhibition. In “MFBB 2 (TFEFA!),” amid a crazed slurry of savagely rich (and savage) colors, a man swings a sword to behead a man on his knees. Near the armed man, three other bodies have crumbled with heads in various states of decapitation (midair, on the ground). “9 Fish, 1 Drowned, 2 Ducks” follows the same improbable color scheme and dark sense of humor. We found the drowned person, two ducks, but only eight fish, unless that orange swipe near the non-titular otter’s mouth is the final one.

As if to counter Baratta’s brashness, Leisen’s two “Boat” pieces are soft and satisfying watercolor depictions of barely detailed people on boats. They toil away calmly (and refreshingly), almost enveloped in the fog of their soft marks.

Schank seemingly creates his works from apocalypse coloring books. After filling in repetitive illustrations with a mix of chipper sherbet and treacherous mud patterns—plaids, leaves, flowers, bricks, camo—he cuts them out and layers them. The results are stacked compositions of impossible architectures built from repeating piles of fences, walls and button-up shirts. It’s what Whoville would look like if the Grinch only stole the good stuff from Christmas and then drove out all the Whos.

Badger’s pieces come off as a series of comic-style, wonderfully drafted flow charts, in which the artist usually posits a question and then offers answers in both ink text and drawing. His work is best when its logical progression is most clear, witty and refined. In “Should We? Know Why?” for example, two simple bar graphs make up the piece: The “Should We?” graph has one vote for yes, one no, zero for not sure; “Know Why?” uses zero for both yes and no, but two votes for not sure. The piece pokes fun at strong, baseless opinions.

“Why Not?” presents those words scripted boldly at its center. Badger illustrates approximately 100 responses that branch out from there of why not to do something. Though a visually satisfying web, the sheer multitude of possibilities causes their rationale to suffer. For example: disease > nutrition > scabies. Another that makes more sense but lacks elegance: money > government corruption > local trouble > crime > political > cronyism.

Many of the works derive tiny punch lines from their titles and all definitely pique one’s interest in the particular artist. But surmising much else is difficult. The frequent delicateness of the work—the subtle colors, spare draftsmanship, few pieces—threatens to be suffocated under such a big concept. Fortunately, each of the pieces can hold its own weight.

 

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