There's a new video/performance/conceptual art piece that should not be missed. Brilliantly elucidating (and exploiting) the shifting, contradictory modes of perception endemic to late capitalism, it foregrounds how postmodern technology creates virtual worlds of memory and desire in order to create ever-larger (self-aware and mutually reinforcing) nodes of economic potentiality; it problematizes the societal valorization of commodification. Okay, just kidding. Yes, Michael Moore is back with a new film, and desperate times call for desperate jokes. Did half the country really miss the point of Sicko? Does it really believe the screamers now want change after having proposed nothing since 1994?
Bay Area artist and activist Art Hazelwood has a valentine for capitalism that's every bit as heartfelt as Moore's: 26 satirical prints that continue his quixotic crusade to bring reality back to contemporary society, still largely driven by the profitable tickling of the pleasure/anger/fear centers in consumer brains. Hazelwood believes, with John Berger, that Picasso's old-age failure to reach beyond the boundaries of his rather capacious ego, to use his wealth and power for others, condemned him to futility and despair, however brilliantly or abjectly expressed: "The [real] artist is flesh and blood and lives among us." By that standard, we're a society of Picassos, morally, if not artistically. Hazelwood's moral theater employs symbolic figures deriving from medieval religious satire (the ship of fools, the scramble for pelf/hay in Bosch, for example) and the political cartoon tradition of the Gilded Age and Depression (Nast's vulturine crony capitalists, Gropper's gasbag politicians, Grosz's porcine profiteers). Hazelwood's main villains, corpulent baldies in suits (no offense), gross and infantile, appear repeatedly. In "Trickle Down," societal totem-pole climbers hold out fishing nets to catch the money falling from above; according to Moore, what we've had is a cleverly engineered trickle-up. "The Sower" updates the ennobled planter of Millet and Van Gogh, presenting a profiteer sowing money and monstrosity. "Katrina Disaster: American Swamp" depicts a comfy couple seated atop a raft of the heads of drowning and floundering. "Pillars of Society" presents the unholy trio of general, businessman, and preacher selling their ballistic missile wares to a docile public. "Corporate Cookie Jar" presents a Godzilla-size capitalist colossus lifting the Capitol dome to get congressional goodies inside. "Investor" dances en pointe while factories spew pollutants into the air and market indicators rise. "Freedom Suite" illustrates FDR's 1941 Four Freedoms; Freedom from Fear and Want are still deemed controversial. Art Hazelwood runs through November 13 at Inferno Gallery (4401 San Leandro St., Oakland). InfernoGallery.com or 415-336-6831.
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