Photo by Matt OttoNoah Thomas's "Veneer" at Huntington Beach's The Office purports to challenge the viewer on how they consider interior space. Do we challenge the way we see a desk? Do we challenge the way we see a dog? Is "interior space" really such a sacred cow? Couldn't our challenges be saved for some heavier lifting?
And while we're asking questions: Didn't Douglas Adams pretty much cover that in SoLongandThanksforAlltheFish,with his "Outside the Asylum"—where interior and exterior at some crazy dude's house were flipped so he could box off the entire world as "the asylum," and then he could live . . . outside it?
Barring that—sorry, I've recently been rereading the five-book trilogy—didn't the Light & Space playboys in the '60s and their descendants in the '70s, '80s and '90s fuck with interior space enough? In their cases, they actually did more than challenge viewers' perceptions—they changed them, through brainwave-altering optical illusions prismatized through bent bars of light (and space).
Lewis Carroll challenged the way we see interior spaces in Wonderland—but that wasn't really his whole point, was it? (The point, surely, was to do more drugs.)
A funhouse is a funhouse, and it doesn't need any further intellectual tarting-up. Just say it: Thomas has given us an installation with little other justification than sheer play. Lately, we need all the play we can get.
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"Veneer" has sensory jiggles and warped planks to walk on, a block wall of Styrofoam and the puffy, expanding foam you use to fill up rat holes. It has silver undulating spikes of goo and green blobs like the Communist fungus in TalesFromtheCrypt.It has small plank sculptures with Escheresque steps, and more rat foam, but peaked like meringue on a viscous bed of green Jell-O.
It's puffy and gritty and gross and delightful. The music behind it swoops and creaks and groans and moans and howls like a Wookiee in heat.
It's a charming little bit—play often is—and it's about as "challenging" as a game of Go, Fish. Seems to me more like Thomas is challenging the way we see rat foam and pie.
"VENEER," BY NOAH THOMAS, AT THE OFFICE: AN ART SPACE, 5122 BOLSA AVE., STE. 110, HUNTINGTON BEACH, (714) 767-5861. OPEN TUES.-FRI., 1-5 p.m. THROUGH JULY 1.