In New York in the 1960s, Roy Lichtenstein turned dynamic Constructivist abstractions and the vitalistic paint drips of Abstract Expressionism into flat, print-ready graphics, and the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto sought to eliminate artistic hierarchies by combining classical art objects with rag scraps and other common detritus. By the 1980s, graphic paint drips were on every day-glo bandanna, graffiti artists had gallery shows, and urban decay was a stock backdrop for Hollywood movies and punk album covers. Thaddeus Kellstadt’s post-everything installation at Second Bedroom, appropriately titled “After Effects,” uses a cheerful palette to comment bemusedly on the anti-grandiose ethos in contemporary object-making. The wall of his installation room features a lovely blue and pinkish-orange painting of a cracked brick wall, and a torn-out phone booth constructed from paint and cardboard. A dead plant made from plaster, wire and a disassembled plastic pot-leaf necklace swoons on the floor, and in a corner behind and above the door one discovers a drop-ceiling tile punctured by a rainbow forest of pencils. Outside the room, and across the nature-culture divide, is a set of six small paintings of leafless trees whose twigs are shimmering streaks across a simple sky made strange by Kellstadt’s intuitive use of color. There may be no possibility of epic poetry after the advent of steam power, to paraphrase Karl Marx, but Kellstadt’s work implies that sifting through the ruins of modernity doesn’t need to bum us out. (Bert Stabler)
Through November at Second Bedroom, 3216 S. Morgan St, apartment 4R
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