Internal strife

If the idea of police-state-fueled political manipulation seems out of step with the search for personal identity, Flood Gallery’s current show, Insurgents, seeks the parallel ground between these disparate concepts. The high-energy, postmodern (and at times post-apocalyptic) exhibit, curated by the gallery’s new assistant director, Reneé M. Cagnina (formerly with ArtCenter/South Florida), includes work by artists from Asheville, New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

An image from Susan Lee-Chun’s “Flexspace” series.

The search for personal identity is an ongoing exploration for Miami’s Susan Lee-Chun, primarily a performance artist, who contributes two beautifully executed Lambda prints to the show. She plays with the idea of her Korean-American heritage by photographing herself dressed like a combat solider, crouching behind sandbags and peering at the viewer from her protective helmet. At first glance, Lee-Chun is just a young, pretty face at odds with the battle gear. A second glance reveals not the usual camouflage-patterned clothing, but heavily textured black lace covering the helmet, the fatigues and the protective sandbags. Lee-Chun grabs the viewer with lighthearted humor that leads to a deeper contemplation of race and otherness.

Protective clothing also provides a point of departure for artist Nelson Gutierrez of Washington, D.C., who transforms a life preserver, flak jacket and gas mask into haute couture. Gutierrez’ large-format C-prints mimic glossy upmarket magazines. “Better to be smart …” is a self-portrait in which the artist stands with a lovely, stylishly attired woman in a luxurious living room. She wears an intricately decorated gas mask; he sports a lead flak vest detailed with embroidered Louis Vuitton monograms in various colored threads. (The actual vest is included in the exhibition, displayed on a mannequin wearing a tux shirt complete with mother-of-pearl cuff links and black bow tie.)

Gutierrez has also created a leather life preserver, painted the plaid of classic menswear. Teamed with a black turtleneck sweater and fur collar, the display explores the battling forces of personal security versus glamour.

New Yorker Mike Estabrook approaches security issues from another angle. His group of 40 nearly life-sized soldiers is crudely cut from used cartons and cardboard boxes. Their hands and faces are painted black and decorated with crude features, sometimes like primitive warriors, sometimes robotic. They carry big guns, in stark contrast to the benign consumer-goods’ labels stamped on the cartons and boxes from which the figured are culled.

Estabrook’s short video, “The Road to Nam,” also employs soldier imagery. The famous photo a young Vietnamese man being executed is juxtaposed with the faces of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon while Bing Crosby and Bob Hope sing an upbeat rendition of “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.”

Another video—the three-panel “The Issue at Hand” by Guerra de la Paz (the creative team of Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz, both from Miami)—offers another disturbingly humorous fusion of images. In the center frame sits a large stack of magazines, while each flanking screen shows a young man in fatigues seated on a toilet. The men face each other, each reaching for a magazine, flipping through it, ripping out a page, wiping themselves and discarding the book over their shoulders. While a continuous din of gunfire sounds in the background, the ripping, wiping and tossing process continues ad infinitum. Sure, this installation is less tasteful than some commentaries on the media, but it certainly—and this quantity is at the heart of Insurgents—presents a clear opinion.

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville painter and writer.]

who:Asheville-based ceramist Heinz Kossler, the One-Three Collective, Susan Lee-Chun, Nelson Gutierrez, Mike Estabrook and Guerra de la Paz
what: Insurgents, a high-energy, postmodern art exhibit
where:Flood Gallery Fine Arts Center
when:On display through Sunday, May 11 (Free. 254-2166.)


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.