Guy Richards Smit’s new videos are compelling to watch, even though nothing much happens during any of them. In “Urinal Girl,” a very adult-looking “schoolgirl” looks on dreamily as a young man pees. Eyebrows cocked, he looks back at her, clearly getting off on being watched. Toward the end, she appears bored, and the guy wipes flop-sweat from his brow. In another video, a physician communicates bad news to a patient by donning a red clown nose and dancing a halfhearted jig, while a third depicts a painter, her elaborately costumed female model and a mysterious dominatrix-like figure surveying the proceedings.
These videos (selected from a larger and still in-progress new series) are a slight departure from the wickedly dead-on art-world satires for which Smit is known. To be sure, parody is ever-present, particularly in “Urinal Girl”’s references to classic porn and in Smit’s roughly executed watercolor paintings above the sofa, which evoke the worst impulses of artists like Elizabeth Peyton, Karen Kilimnik and their emulators. (Far more interesting are Smit’s riffs on New York Times headlines on view at “Artists Run Chicago,” in Hyde Park).
It’s hard to pillory pretension amidst the unpretentious surroundings of He Said-She Said, so Smit has wisely chosen videos that speak not only to art-world posturing but, in a broader sense, to society’s continued reliance on cliché as a kind of quickie method of information processing. Smit deflates expectations without ever boring us himself, which makes him a fabulous entertainer, if not (yet, anyway) a deeply thought-provoking artist. (Claudine Isé)
Through May 31 at He Said-She Said, 831 South Grove Avenue, Oak Park. Open by appointment.