Thought, Provoking

Jason Dodges art asks the questions. You answer them

Between Sunrise and Sunset in
Greenland
by Jason DodgeA dead man hangs by the neck from a noose in a remote farmhouse—alone, with no stool or box for a gallows platform. How, then, did he do it?

If setups like this get your neurons firing, Jason Dodge is your man; his show, on display now at the Orange County Museum of Art, is packed with conundrums. An American expat living in Berlin, Dodge delivers not art—with all components present for the viewer's total artistic experience—but the suggestion of art, the insinuation of imagery, the implications of which he leaves to our imaginations.

Above the weather (2005) looks like the arts-and-crafts box at summer camp, less the actual box. It seems extraordinarily spare, offering only raw materials and a fantastic, unattainable goal—MacGyveresque, like constructing a nuclear device with a coat hanger, a cardboard tube and a glow-in-the-dark watch. On the otherwise bare concrete floor lies a multicolored, multitextured heap of string, cord, wire, ribbon, twine, tape, etc., all neatly wound in the original packaging. But with an easy-to-miss sign on the wall, Dodge drops the mass of furled potential into context like tongue into groove.

Unspooled and concatenated, he explains, these lengths "together equal the height from the earth to above the weather," from the ground to the troposphere, a distance of about 13 kilometers. I immediately had dark thoughts involving an enormous Mylar kite.

While sounding like the shittiest short story Poe never wrote, Dodge's The Disappearance of Wickerfinn Lutz (2005) has its own air of inexplicability. Twenty airmail envelopes, mounted and arranged inside a Lucite case, bear the scars of their respective worldwide journeys en route to the mysterious, fictional Mr. Lutz, who, like David Hasselhoff's Michael Knight, does not exist. Nearly 100 were originally mailed to embassies or consulates throughout the world, one per country, Dodge explains, yet only a score returned to the U.S. The puzzled comments of foreign postal clerks decorate several envelopes, while official stamps adorn others. The one sent to and from Brazil sports an outsized, stylized question mark; it makes you wonder how long that postal clerk looked before verifying the addressee's nonexistence—and what fate befell the 80 or so envelopes absent from the piece. Rwanda's entry looks as if it not only had been carried by elephant but also fed to one.

Highly conceptual only begins to describe the exhibit's largest piece, the two-part Between Sunset and Sunrise in Greenland (2005). Stationed on the wall opposite Lutz,it is another Lucite case, this one containing an "altered world map" whose alteration is less than immediately apparent. A two-inch circle containing the southwestern coast of Greenland has been swapped with that of California so as to maintain the overall contour of each land's shoreline. Three banks of fluorescent lights illuminate the holy hell out of the otherwise empty room—but not until darkness has fallen on our Dodge-designed counterpart, the land alluded to by the map's inverted locales. Like a less imperative version of the thought experiment "Don't think of a pink elephant," Dodge dares us not to picture thousands of Greenlanders sparking their own lamps to counter the encroaching sunlessness. But unlike our sunsets or theirs, Dodge's show goes dark in 10 days, so shake a leg.

Oh, and to answer your question: the hanged man stood on a block of ice, which melted and then evaporated. That's all I know.

JASON DODGE: INSTALLATION SERIES AT THE ORANGE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART, 850 SAN CLEMENTE DR., NEWPORT BEACH, (949) 759-1122. OPEN TUES.-WED. & FRI.-SUN., 11 A.M.-5 P.M.; THURS., 11 A.M.-8 P.M. THROUGH SEPT. 25. $8-$10; MEMBERS AND CHILDREN UNDER 12, FREE.

 
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