Continuing through October 8, 2011
In the aftermath of 9/11 people asserted passionately that nothing would ever be the same. In a sense, they were right (even if other concerns crept back swiftly into our consciousnesses). The free-and-easy travel once available to Americans is gone forever, replaced by stockinged feet and full-body scans. Michele Pred’s conceptual sculptures, fabricated from pocketknives, cigarette lighters, nail scissors, envelope openers and the like, all confiscated by TSA, call attention to the security crackdown, showing us both its aggregate impact (1500 pounds of metal doodads which Pred was able to request from San Francisco Airport for repurposing) and its individual emotion (family heirlooms reluctantly sacrificed to surveillance and the greater good).
Combining Pop’s iconic symmetry (Johns, Stella) and satire of materialism (Arman, Warhol) with hints of Surrealist menace (Magritte, Samaras), Pred’s nine artworks are both emotionally unsettling and intellectually gratifying. The wall-mounted assemblage, “American Red Cross,” is composed of five dozen Swiss Army-style penknives in battle array. The floor-mounted assemblage, “Bull’s Eye,” with its blue and silver bands circling a center of radially arranged red knives — like an explosion — suggests Ground Zero only in the most abstract way, as well as invokes the round insignia used by many air forces. Several pieces employ arrays of razor blades, both in circular patterns like that of “Bull’s Eye” and configured into stars and stripes (“Red, White and Black,” Black, White and Red”). A lenticular print pairs the image of one of these bladed flags with a white background (smoke, debris?) bearing the words “Imminent Threat”; you think of the tattered Fort McHenry flag in the national anthem. “Fear Culture” plays with puns and flag imagery, presenting its confiscated objects within tissue culturing Petri dishes as if contagiously dangerous. The suspended black umbrella dropping tiny suspended scissors in “Travelers” refer to Magritte’s “Hegel’s Holiday” and “Golconda”—as well as to the magical logos of insurance companies claiming to watch over us in stormy times.