There's usually a catch to anything shown at the Office in Huntington Beach, whether it's that its people expect you to believe a barbecue sprayed silver is a teleporting device, or that a bunch of dudes in lab coats are scientists—or that three tiny rooms of an industrial park unit are an art gallery. Which they are (the barbecue, the dudes, the rooms), and that's fine. Suspension of disbelief is always welcome, here and at the dentist.
But the latest Office show, "Sexpectations," asks for none of it. The catch is that there's no catch, just two dead-on, confrontational exhibits from two young artists—Mindy Cherri and Joanna Grasso—pissed off about something.
In each case, it's words, just words, but you quickly realize their power. Cherri has the bigger show. It occupies both main rooms of the gallery: a series of those white milkglass plates and platters with those scrolled edges—each bedazzled with a word written all shiny and clean in blue sequins at its center. A dirty word.
Here's the first four: "BEAVER," "TWAT," "CUNT," "PUSSY." All capital letters; all blue sequins. (Each priced at around $100.) And each saying a lot more than a mere four-, five- or six-letter word. We throw these words around all the time like they're nothing, but emblazoned on a clean white dish like this, their impact is once again as huge as it was in fourth grade or whenever you first heard them. It's scary how large they become in a new context: how truly filthy "PIMP," "COCKSUCKER," "TEASE" are, each served on a little white plate.
Cherri even lends a new gravity to words she makes up, like "DICKALICIOUS," or the title word "SEXPECTATIONS." And as you see each, you—if you're a guy—start to maybe get a sense of how sexed-up, how objectified women are. How maybe guys—maybe like you—are a bunch of cocks (paraphrasing "COCK," which is what it says on another plate). How fucked up the whole man-woman thing is. It's very unsettling, because it's very obvious that most guys don't think about that much. I know I don't.
In the third Office room, Joanna Grassocontributes a short video segment that won't pummel your guy ego any more—but could devastate your mom. Grasso hates her mom, or gives a good imitation of it. The piece, filmed outside an Orange County condo (her own, perhaps) shows Grasso making and hurling mudballs and insults at a picture of her mother, propped up on an easel:
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"This one is for that time you said you weren't my mother any more" (splat). "This one is for all the rotten things you said about my father" (splat). "I'm not going to be like you" (splat). "I will be different" (splat).
After a few minutes, it becomes almost routine—routinely horrifying—and her mom's face is dirt brown. There's so much hate here, or at least there seems to be. You leave the little room, and search for that corresponding meanness in a copy of the picture of Grasso's muddied mom. You look at two tiny jars of dirt she's also displayed. You look again at Cherri's dirty words. "SLUT." "HORNY." "PLAYER."
Do these mean what you think they mean?
SEXPECTATIONS, THE OFFICE, 5122 BOLSA AVE., STE. 110, HUNTINGTON BEACH, (714) 767-5861; WWW.THEOFFICEART.COM. CALL GALLERY FOR HOURS. THROUGH MARCH 23. FREE.