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In four interrelated solo exhibits at the Griffin Museum, photographers Jerry Takigawa, David Welch, Jeremy Underwood and sculptor Robert Rindler confront the scourges of pollution and the rampant consumption that continues to sustain it. Feel like screaming and running from the room? Don’t! These artists cunningly cloak their truthful daggers in beauty and wit.
In his series “False Food” (in the Main Gallery), Jerry Takigawa presents refined designs of small discarded pieces of plastic positioned atop a variety of flat backgrounds such as appropriated Japanese drawings or unfocused B&W photographs that serve to accentuate their dimensionality and texture. The contrasts and sophisticated patterns in Takigawa’s images imbue his work with a serene beauty that makes an underlying tragedy all the more powerful. The plastic pieces we see were acquired from the Monterey (CA) Bay Aquarium, which were in turn culled from albatross who have fed on so much “false food” from the ocean that the plastic eventually prevents their digestion of real food and they starve to death.
Takigwawa’s sleight of hand is as alluring as it is deliberate. It is no accident that many of his images evoke exquisite Japanese delicacies, underscoring the point that we are all bound to the same globe in one interconnected food chain. Even as Takigawa catches our attention with multiple dichotomies – organic vs. inorganic, transience vs. permanence, monotone vs. chromatic, unfocused vs. sharp, even Japanese vs. American cultures – he is creating a holistic vision. Takigawa works intuitively and hopes to evoke an emotional response, believing “art doesn’t live on walls, it lives in hearts and minds.” With his precise, ritualistic arrangements, Takigawa’s deep irony penetrates like a quiet meditation.
David Welch’s “Material World” (in the Atelier Gallery) is a tongue-in-cheek visual response to Karl Marx’s rant against the evils of capitalism and the consumerism it spawns. Bitingly funny, Welch uses totems as visual symbols of the insatiable American appetite for more stuff. Impossibly tall piles of toys, laundry, televisions, food and other items each take a turn as the focal point in his bright and cheerful images.
By objectifying our obsessive collections with lively, saturated colors and bold, graphic compositions, Welch delivers an absurdist punch that allows us to laugh at ourselves. His gentle goading is an unexpectedly amusing combination of ugly truths with seductive imagery.
Using debris found in Houston’s waterways, Jeremy Underwood (in the Griffin Gallery) builds site-specific assemblages from the articles he finds on the beach. He then photographs the lovely and often intricate sculptures right where he built them, creating dramatic panoramic landscapes.
Ironically stunning, Underwood’s sculptures of plastic and glass glisten with backlight or swirl gracefully in the water’s currents. Majestic wooden constructions ornament the beach. Resplendent skies and sweeping terrains seem magical. It looks as though the river has offered up a magnificent treasure from its store of castaway trash. Amidst this beauty, the viewer is left to reflect on the relationship we’ve cultivated with our environment and the ubiquity of the garbage we continually generate.
Colorful, tangled orbs that sculptor Robert Rindler calls “Jetsam Jellyfish” dangle above Takigawa’s photographs in the Main Gallery, adding delight overhead. Except, of course, that they are also constructed from garbage. Perhaps the most wonderful thing these four exhibits share is that they romance the viewer. What better way to encourage us to think globally and act locally?
These exhibits will be on view through June 5, 2015. For more information, go to: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/exhibits-griffin-museum-of-photography/
Feature Image: “Untitled F-300” from the series “False Food” by Jerry Takigawa (courtesy of the artist and Griffin Museum of Photography)