Tiger, Tiger, Pooping Jewels

Animal acts at @Space

The "Courting Allusion" show, now on display at @Space gallery, is just plain awesome-but unfortunately, it's awesome in a way that's a real challenge to capture in words. Perhaps that's why the show's press release lays down such a thick barrage of art-school jibber-jabber, describing Alison Foshee and Sara Simon as "two artists who challenge and flirt with uses of material, utilize repetitious technique, and whose works are informed with notions of power, perfection, commercialism and control."

After all, if they just told you these ladies make flowers out of chocolate wrappers and peacocks out of office labels, you'd probably picture something not unlike the junk you made on crafts day at summer camp. And indeed, there is something very summer-camp-crafts-day about this stuff—in the best possible way.

Candy-wrapper flowers are so much more lovely than they sound, and the piece's title—Bliss, BITE SIZE!—suggests that whoever wrote that press release just might have been onto something with that whole consumerist-critique angle. Foshee folded the wrappers into delicate, glinting, multicolored, metallic lotus petals, which are arranged on paper-doily lily pads, and then stuck against the wall, giving you the vertiginous sense that you're looking down on a depthless white pond from the wrong angle—like gravity has come unstuck, and you're walking on the walls like the astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In other words: trippy.

Foshee's office-label peacock is a real treat. It's perfectly obvious what this thing is made of, and it's all the more impressive for that. Six feet high, this beastie is, the stuff of a million wasted days in a million sunless cubicles, transformed into a creature of wonderful strangeness. Foshee also has an interesting sideline in making pine-tree branches out of staples. Whether it was intentional or not, at this time of year, the silvery pine branches can't help but call to mind a Christmas tree. It gives the show a kind of punkish Yuletide air.

Simon is a young artist, apparently a good decade younger than Foshee, but she's already doing similarly impressive work. Her Paper Tiger is just what it sounds like-a big tiger made of paper. Well, more of a tiger skin, really. A wooden support strutcture holds it up, and you have the feeling that if anybody accidentally left the gallery door open, a good wind might just carry the entire piece away and deposit it in a soggy gutter a few blocks off. For no obvious reason, the tiger has left behind a tiger poop that's covered in diamonds. It makes you wonder what the heck he's been eating to get such pimped-out poop-and where you could get ahold of some to feed to your cat. Diamonds or no, it seems incredibly rude of this pulpy feline to foul the floor of a nice gallery that's invited him in as a guest. Perhaps the poor creature is sick with nerves. After all, it's a hard life when you're an oragami tiger who could be undone by an errant splash of water. Even the office-label peacock could kick your ass.

But the piece that really grabs your eye like a hungry magpie is Simon's Daisy Chain. It's a life-size hanging skeleton, covered with a million little clay flowers. From a distance, it looks like a dead sailor recovered from a ship that spent so long at the bottom of the sea it's hard to tell where the barnacles end and the bones begin. But as you get closer, the flowers become clear, and it takes on a kind of ghastly prettiness. Talk about leaving behind a good-looking corpse.

We're starting to sympathize with the poor gallery PR flack who described Simon's work as "visual seduction through ornamentation, [featuring] themes of sexuality and commodification." Fancy words just won't do the job. You'll have to go the gallery yourself—and quickly, as the show ends Wednesday—to experience the crazy little fantasy land these two ladies have created out of office supplies.

Click here for a gallery of images from this exhibit.

"Courting Allusion: Alison Foshee & Sara Simon" at @Space Gallery, 2202 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 835-3730; www.atspacegallery.com. Open Sun. & Wed.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Through Wed.

 
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