God is definitely not in the details of ‘Archeo-Art’
“In the beginning,” Douglas Adams once wrote, “the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move.” Word.
The problem with intelligent design (well, one of the many problems) is that there’s nothing intelligent about the way this world is designed. Take the duck-billed platypus: It’s like God had a bunch of parts left over from other animals, and on some long, rainy night, he got bored and decided to just squish them all together and see what happened. So we end up with this wretched little beaver-lizard-duck thing secreting milk through its fur. The globe is overrun with silly, ugly, gross, stinky animals that really would not exist if somebody sensible were in charge. Who among us hasn’t taken a hard look at the whole of creation and thought, “Hell, I could do better than this crap?”
Well, Jim Hornung wasn’t content to just bitch about how messed-up nature is. He decided to do something about it, taking bits and pieces from existing animals and seeing if he could assemble them better than God did.
Hornung’s “Archeo-Art” is currently on display at Long Beach’s 2nd City Council Gallery, an exhibit space that makes the interior of an 1989 Honda CRX seem plush and roomy. But Hornung has pimped this place out good, turning it into a most impressive cabinet of curiosities. You’ll find the skeletons of “turkles” (flying turtles, and why not?), the quadruped “pelicat,” and other unearthly creatures. Everything, alas, but the liger.
It’s all presented with a perfectly straight face and loving craftsmanship, featuring museum-grade displays and animals sporting sparkling, golden bones just because it looks cool. (Did God think to give his animals bones made of gold? No, he did not.) Actual dead things went into the creation of these beasts, so all you weepy animal-rights folks are to be warned. But seriously, now—if you were a turtle, would you rather end up in somebody’s soup, or be transformed into the legendary turkle, a fierce creature of the air?
Hornung also offers up a few fertility objects—cute, metallic lumps extending hopeful feelers in all directions. They have a vibe that’s at once retro-futuristic and sleazy, sort of like sex toys from Emperor Ming’s palace on planet Mongo. They’re wholly inexplicable little things, but just to be safe, you should probably refrain from sex for a few weeks after you see this show. (After all, what if these freaky dealies actually work, and this show somehow gets you knocked-up? You don’t want to end up giving birth to a litter of pelicats, believe me.)
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Hornung’s work makes me think of jackalopes, those truck-stop horrors made from unfortunate, taxidermied bunnies with little antlers glued to their skulls. But it also calls to mind much finer things, such as Culver City’s Museum of Jurassic Technology, a wondrous place where you can never be quite sure where hard science leaves off and the prankish, artsy bullshittery begins. The Jurassic proves that if you give any crazy thing enough of the trappings of a real museum, that crazy thing can be made to seem totally legit. Hornung is like a one-man Jurassic, and I can scarcely offer higher praise.
Douglas Adams is gone, so it’s too late to ask him if he’d find Hornung’s strange universe any sort of improvement on the one we’re all stuck with. I’ll admit that Hornung’s animals don’t really stand up to serious comparison with some of the magnificent animals we’ve already got wandering the globe—animals like the elephant. Or the lion. Or the Angelina Jolie. But it’s not really a fair match-up. Besides, God had omniscience on his side, and all Hornung had was a pile of bones, some Super Glue, a peculiar imagination and a lack of squeamishness.
But compared to that goddamn platypus, Hornung’s beasties win in a walk.
Jim Hornung’s “Archeo-Art” at the 2nd City Council Gallery, 435 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, (562) 901-0997; www.2ndcitycouncil.org. Open Wed.-Sun., noon-5 p.m. Runs indefinitely. Free.