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Adult Swim 

The show is called The Sawdust Ring. But the biggest, if temporary, part of it was an opening night installation called Baby Pool Drive In, a kind of ad hoc deck and cabana evoked by actual baby pools and deck furniture on a patch of Astroturf on the street outside the gallery. This conveys something of Miranda Lake's flair for blurring the usual boundaries between a dream world and the real world, in this case a bit of personal history. It seems that Julia Street gallerist Jonathan Ferrara had been struck by Lake's penchant for throwing parties with movies and exotic drinks with baby pools in place of the real pool that she hopes to have some day in the future. Impressed by the compelling surrealism of the setting, he encouraged her to recreate it as installation art. That mix of dream theater and gritty, street-level reality seems to be what propels much of her work. Lake is clearly guided by dreams, but she is also influenced by the mementos, keepsakes and talismanic objects that adorn her home, some of which symbolize dreams made tangible. Vice and Squalor features one such object, an antique Underwood typewriter sprouting bullhorns. It floats over a vague topography of seashells and old, Katrina-wracked homes as pigeons descend from a sky where an oversized sun bears ledger-like inscriptions of antique handwriting. The mysteriousness of the imagery is heightened by Lake's encaustic collage medium in which photographic imagery is combined with bits of old maps, ledgers and even kimono scraps bathed in beeswax to create a floating sensibility of 'displacement and timelessness." Jena Street Social Club features cowgirl singers performing around a stage that is actually an ornate old gas heater. Surreal shifts in scale cause the heater-stage to loom large next to the pigeons and cowgirls, who all appear about the same size. It's a tactic also employed in Last Night I had the Strangest Dream, in which wild horses run through canyons amid mesas that are actually giant barnacles. Lake's images have a sweetness that underlies their surreal content, and if they sometimes seem a little repetitious this time around, her best pieces recreate the world around us as if seen anew " a hopeful omen for the future.

Matthew Kirscht's mostly small oil paintings at the Big Top can be disturbing if not subversive beneath their seemingly sweet facade. Indeed, their bright, inviting colors and fairytale settings radiate a childlike sensibility that can quickly turn darkly devious and psychological. Employing a cast of storybook bears, birds, bunnies, animated cupcakes and ice cream confections, Kirscht creates a fantasyland fraught with perils ordinarily associated with the adult world beyond the playpen. Temptation is all around us, it seems, and Kirscht's fairytale critters are often besotted with one thing or another.

Getting Drunk in the Woods features a fairytale bear in a forest getting a buzz on with his buddies, a squirrel, rabbit and mouse, all of whom look pretty wasted. Here the cuteness of the critters contrasts with the louche content of the image. What Do You Desire? may be more to the point. Here a robotic clown, like a figure from a vintage if diabolical arcade game, appears to be blowing his stack with a cornucopia of addictive objects including martinis, chocolate sundaes, diamond rings and luscious lips as well as skulls, cigarettes and crosses. The clown machine reappears wearing an evil leer in Junky, as it is paraded in a colorful wagon pulled by a besotted bear in a scene reminiscent of those roving ice cream truck vendors who deal crack cocaine on the side. At his best, Kirscht is a Hieronymous Bosch of the playground with a diabolical genius for exploring the adult side of childhood while evoking the childish side of 'adult" vices.

click to enlarge Miranda Lake's Jena Street Social Club collage illustrates her penchant for surreal imagery inspired by real-life paradoxes and epiphanies.
  • Miranda Lake's Jena Street Social Club collage illustrates her penchant for surreal imagery inspired by real-life paradoxes and epiphanies.


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