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'Death of a Propane Salesman: Anxiety and the Texas Artist'
at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts
Review by Charissa Terranova


Amy Revier, 2007, 'Woolly Headed,' Video Installation, Photo: courtesy of the artist and Fort Worth Contemporary Arts

If "Death of a Propane Salesman: Anxiety and the Texas Artist" is a true indicator, then anxiety in the DFW Metroplex is a halcyon affair. It registers on the flat surfaces and in the right-angled constraints of old-time painting. It is rather counter-intuitive that the fraught emotion of anxiety could be held so tightly within this convention. For the denizens of anxiety, to those of you who have lost sleep over money or love gone astray, this crowded exhibition of painting will either comfort you or make you angry in its simple countenance of the anxious. If this is what anxiety is all about, then what was all the hullabaloo, Kierkegaard? Camus? Why so fussy?

While there are a bevy of fantastic paintings, drawings, and works on paper, the show does not bear a message of anxiety, but instead offers a pu-pu platter of the best local talent. The exhibition veers toward the anxious in two existentially itchy videos installed mid-gallery. Projected in immaculately fabricated closet-scale rooms, Amy Revier's Wooly Headed (2007) and Edward Setina's Edward Christ, followed by Concentrations #2: DOPP[L(E)(L)REFLE[X(CT)ION (2009), bring home a sense of the eldritch and uncanny.

A Fulbright scholar and studio assistant to Hildur Bjarnadottir in Iceland, Revier uses her body as a palette, wrapping, unwrapping, and rewrapping a thick grey tendril of yarn around her face and head repeatedly. On the opposite side, Setina's body-self becomes objet d'art, first as a Christ-figure strapped sideways to a sliding gate and then, to more poignant effect, as a BMX-racing Narcissus wearing a white helmet gazing at his reflection in a splatter of shiny acrylic paint. Because of intentionally stuttered editing, the artist-as-mesmerized-self comes across as fidgety and uncomfortable.

Strong in places and confused in others, the show needs intense editing, the elimination of everything but the two videos and the paintings by Ludwig Schwarz and sculptural installation by Margaret Meehan. In blinding colors and with foul-mouthed verbiage, Schwarz's Untitled (Cocksucker, from the Road Rage Series) (2005) and Untitled (Fucking Mother Fucker, from the Road Rage Series) (2005) scream out frustration over talents flailing, if not lost, in the cultural void of Middle America. Meehan's Benevolent Blackness is a giant black lace-covered piece of magma mounted atop a cleanly painted diamond of paint on the wall. Connected to it by strings is a bouquet of black butterfly-like flowers. Reminiscent of Lynda Benglis' Shape-Shifters, Meehan's Blackness makes that void palpable in ways at once playful and threatening.

Published courtesy of art ltd. ©2009


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