“A lot of people feel alienated when they come to art shows, because they’re like, ‘I don’t know how to act hyper-serious and I don’t necessarily want to,'” says Jake Myers, a volleyball player and high school art teacher. His new exhibition gratuitously merges art and sports, homoeroticism and hypermasculinity, and heroicism and existential suffering. “When people come and see my work they just can’t help but smile and not take themselves too seriously.” The show’s title, “Suburban Commando,” refers to Hulk Hogan’s cheesy comedy-turned-video game (which is available to play in the gallery), as Myers’ show seeks to reclaim the lost messages of pop-culture heroes.
In the foam-core print “Morphin,” Power Rangers are lying on a couch in emulation of a seductive Calvin Klein ad. “Right now I’m interested in finding all these things that are supposed to be hetero-normative, and you realize very quickly that they’re so strange, they’re so bizarre,” Myers says. “I take those things that are a little bit off or uncomfortable and exaggerate them.” This blended celebration of sexual ambiguity, athleticism, and 1980s nostalgia is delightfully “craptacular,” to use Myers’ description.
“It’s more fun to make work like that, and it’s way more fun for the audience members,” he says. It is fun, yet sometimes disturbing. One piece, a three-minute looping video, stems directly from his own experiences as a young athlete. In the video “Coach Rising,” Myers angrily points his finger and yells homophobic and misogynistic expletives, insults that were shouted at him by former coaches: “Fag alert. Pussy. Little woman. Little faggot.”
Myers, who has been balancing sports and art since he was a child, was appalled by the abusive pep talks, but he has learned to take it in stride and laugh instead. “It’s so awful, how can you not laugh?” Myers asks. “It’s one of those things where you laugh but it hurts.” The same can be said about the series of prints depicting Myers as a skimpily-clad Captain Planet in various phases of a nervous breakdown. Inspired by the tragicomic “Twin Peaks” character Leland Palmer, this distraught, paranoid version of Captain Planet is one which Myers finds more believable in a corporate world, even if his meltdown looks a little silly.
“Your message is ultimately lost on kids, or maybe it’s muddled and used some other way,” Myers said. “So I wanted to show him taking it in the worst way possible.” Fictional or not, important moral heroes like Captain Planet or Che Guevera, whose sculptured image is spliced with the Taco Bell dog’s in “Che Chihuahua,” are abated when they’re reduced to t-shirts and toys. However, Myers hopes everyone, artist, athlete or otherwise, can engage with those images, even in their remixed glory. (Mariann Devlin)
Through September 24 at Happy Collaborationists, 1254 North Noble, by appointment.