"We dream, we covet, we desire. These aspirations, realized or not, give us pleasure, fantasy, identity and a sense of style," Lockwood opines, in what might pass for a dictionary definition of the term "worldliness." And indeed, the title piece, Images of Desire, says it all. A triptych, it's comprised of three square canvases featuring a closely cropped view of a Harley Davidson with its logo prominently displayed, a shop-window mannequin with bright red hair and distant green eyes, wearing something chic and skimpy, and finally, a Rolls-Royce hood ornament framed by the glossy reflections of the hood and grill. And it's curious how this effectively recalls those 1960s British movies that glamorized the world of style and money while simultaneously conveying the sheer emptiness of the lives of those who have nothing but style and money. Julie Christie, Lawrence Harvey and Michael Caine were always so adept at conveying stylish pathos (unlike Gov. Mike Foster, who has the Harley and the Rolls but who only conveys unstylish pathos).
Porsche on Porsche is a close-up view of a highly polished Porsche hubcap. First you see the shimmering play of light, a Lockwood specialty, but look closely and there is a classic 1960s Porsche reflected in the chromium ellipse. There are also vintage MGs and Morgan + 4s, Austin Minis and sleek old Jaguars as well as Ducati and Gilera motorcycles. And there is something to be said for those fine old cars that can sometimes seem almost to have a soul of their own, yet most of these images are cropped so you mostly just see the logo, the most symbolic part of the status symbol. Seen with the smattering of mannequin paintings, scenes of manufactured women facing mirrors and rows of cosmetic bottles, the overall effect is icy, soulless, crass, a world reduced to surfaces, labels and the outer trappings of affluence. Is it a celebration or critique? It can be read either way. I, frankly, love fine old classic cars, but this show left me chilled, which may have been the intent.
Unlike Lockwood, Jim Sohr is not focused on what Karl Marx so aptly called the "commodity fetish." No, Sohr seems focused on ordinary people -- or, actually, his own weird and otherworldly vision of ordinary people -- so Neighborhood may be an apt title. Still, even though he has lived in Bywater for years, his native Wisconsin bubbles up in his work, as we see in The Virgins Await Bin Laden in Paradise. Here the long-faced, spooky-eyed blondes that stare vacantly out at us are obviously more Milwaukee than Marrero, and, indeed, long-faced, spooky-eyed blondes, those lonely lost Valkyries of the prairie, are an ongoing theme of his.
Also traditional are Sohr's paranoiac and jagged-edge images such as Inner City, a view of a ferocious-looking woman and her ferocious-looking dogs, a portrait of sharp teeth with traces of human and canine qualities. Yet, over the years, Sohr's palette has gotten paler and his forms have become so reductive that you sometimes only see geometric patterns, as in his Self Portrait, a rectangular head with a maze of angular, lightning-like rays radiating from the eyes, colored diamonds hovering above lips like pale blue sausages. Below, in the chest cavity, a red outline of a heart appears as if stenciled, giving us an image that might be described as maniacally bland. Which sounds self-contradictory, but is it really? Consider that we live in a maniacally bland country where the president declares escalating violence in Iraq to be a sign of "progress," and it's hard to say whether it is Sohr or Lockwood who seems more in tune with the mood of the times. In their own quirky ways, they both are.