‘You See ... Thing Is ...’

This found-object art melds Hirst's high concepts and Louis C.K.'s comedy

Arts Review

'You See ... Thing Is ...'

Big Medium, 5305 Bolm #12, 385-1670


Through July 1

Humor in art is too often the arena of cartoonists and not of people crafting aesthetically sublime objects. Well, maybe not too often. Maybe it's just as well that those who put a lot of

work into what they make – relatively more, anyway, than the concerted application of pen to paper – maybe it's a good thing that those artistes don't attempt much humor at all. All but the best cartoonists' attempts at being funny will frequently fall flat, and it's so much the worse, I insist, if that failure is the case with the output of some degreed crafter whose best idea of humor stops at the merely goofy.

Well, here's the work of Jamie Panzer in the main gallery of Big Medium's sprawling Eastside compound, in a show called "You See ... Thing Is ...," and it's little but a triumph of searing wit and eye-intriguing creation.

Panzer works with found objects, mostly, and connects and arranges them in unexpected ways or embellishes them with sculptural castings. Yeah, found objects, and we all know what a world of stupid that can be. You and I, reader, we can gather a bunch of cultural jetsam from neighboring curbs on Large Trash Pickup Day and try to make something compelling or at least not-unpleasant-looking out of it; likely, we'd do better trying to fashion a simulacrum of dog shit from leftover chocolate pudding. And the same is true, in my experience, of many exhibitions that truck in found-object manipulation: They may (barely) function on some deeply academic art-history level, but they don't achieve diddly-squat for the casual viewer or even the aficionado who wants to encounter more than obscure informational masturbation.

But here's Jamie Panzer. And of course it's a boon that his craftsmanship can render objects in wax or metal with accuracy and expertise; it's crucial that he can etch and bind and drill and so on at a professional level. But what's most important here is his intelligence, and that: 1) his creations initially latch onto the brain via vision, with a whoa-shit-that-looks-totally-awesome hook, and 2) those creations follow through, on closer scrutiny, with epiphanies of whoa-shit-that's-also-a-commentary-on-perception-and-culture-and-it's-even-hella-funny magnitude.

An actual human skull, its bottom half obscured by a life mask formed from beeswax. A giant-sized model of some intricate molecule, built from colorful bowling balls joined by ornate brass lamp shafts. The thoroughly rusted coils of a stretched-out industrial spring, from the curves of which grow human teeth of what appears to be the same rusted material. The dead and discarded cathode ray tube of some ancient TV, upon whose dust-covered screen is scrawled the apropos variation of what you'd find on a dirty car's window: "WATCH ME." The spectrum-lovely, vertically arranged beakers and flasks of Rainbow Juice. There's more, of course, enough sufficient, gorgeous invention here that Panzer's two-dimensional collage and photographic work – on display in Big Medium's adjoining, separate room – is merely lagniappe.

Let's bring the critical shorthand. The sharp, stand-up comedy observations of Louis C.K.? The arch, high-concept machinations of Damien Hirst? Meld those two aesthetics and wield them with equal amounts of playfulness and wisdom: Panzer's "You See ... Thing Is ..." is like a small museum of the best results you'd get from that process.

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You See ... Thing Is ..., Jamie Panzer, Big Medium

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