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Review: Home Wreckage/Devening Projects + Editions

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Devening Projects + Editions hosts another group of A-list superstars and other impressive talent, this time taking aim at that hallowed cornerstone of the American straight-and-narrow: the family. Functioning as an enforcer of social order and stability, family life is a primary target for those seeking to challenge or upset this order, a position the artists in this show adopt unanimously.

With a penchant for mayhem and destruction endemic to any healthy 11-year-old boy, and the creative license of a distinguished mid-to-late career artist, the 70-year old Swiss artist Roman Signer presents a collection of twenty-five short films that elaborate wildly on the term “wreckage” in its most literal sense. It is entertaining to watch Signer find imaginative new uses for small-explosives, bottle rockets and a host of miniature flying contraptions. The greater implications of Signer’s actions are not always readily available. Instead, it’s his sheer inventiveness, applied with equal virtuosity to both situation and materials, which deserves our attention and praise.

Austrian artist Franz West reshuffles and over-paints a few generic advertisements, including one for women’s underwear in “Lycra 249,” from1995, debunking matrimony’s pretenses, and exposing its ultimate subservience to a biological imperative. Beginning with Richard Hamilton, continuing on through Martha Rosler, Barbara Kruger and many others, including West himself, this rhetoric of disrupting advertising’s carefully constructed signs and codes has become commonplace in the artistic production of recent decades, paralleling, or perhaps signaling, the polarization and entrenchment of a social persuasions either in defense of or against the dominant social order. As long as that dominant order remains a source of social injustice, and as long as “family values” are touted in its defense, we can continue to expect artists to tear the house down. (Nate Lee)

“Home Wreckage” shows at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll, through January 24, 2010.

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