"99 Cent War"

Visual arts review

Arts Review

"99 Cent War"

Iron Gate Studios, through Nov. 18

Derek Boshier's installation and film works at Iron Gate Studios are spectacular and are a tremendous coup for the space, given the British artist's international fame. Returning to the show on a weekday after the reception, your reviewer was unprepared for the intense experience that awaited. The solitude within the space and the accessibility of the sound portion of the installation created a completely different environment. Whatever one's political convictions, it cannot be denied that thousands of children have been killed or had their lives otherwise destroyed in the current conflict in Iraq. The artworks in the installation were created by Boshier in homage to them.

The artist has been recorded whistling a little boyhood tune, and this cheerful sound resonates within the space in a way that crystallizes the bitter content. The British sense of humor is here evident in its most biting incarnation. The artist was inspired by a visit to a 99-cent store, in which he viewed the current trends in merchandising and the proliferation of children's war toys. He purchased 10 dollars' worth of toys for the installation, including toy military items surrounding a pair of goofy, fair-skinned child dolls. These are positioned on a table between a pair of chairs, set up as if for a game of some sort. A pair of large drawings based on these toys depict toy children surrounded by toy war planes. Three independent pieces are incorporated into an installation titled The Art and Politics of Fear and Deception. These contain very specific and acutely pointed political commentary regarding the current commander in chief. The smaller works are surrounded by painted toy warplanes and a toy grenade on a display shelf.

Boshier's film Circle and a Ken Russell piece called Pop Goes the Easel, both dating from the Sixties, were brought to town as part of a collaboration with the Austin Film Society. On opening night, Circle was projected outside the facility. The film had a sequence with a toy airplane, an actual plane, and a railroad track. This transportation theme was appropriately echoed in the surrounding environment, which prominently features a railroad track.

Boshier's generosity in supporting a local space should not go unrecognized, nor should Iron Gate's achievement in hosting his work.

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