619 West 27th Street
March 31 - May 5
UrbanDictionary.com defines frowntown as a “fictional place were [sic] nobody is happy and nothing is pleasant.” A neologism that makes an affect into a location, frowntown is also a childish rhyme, a singsongy absurdity that seems to undercut its grim meaning. Harry Dodge’s “Frowntown” pushes this adolescent mix of humor and sadness to the breaking point by exploiting gaps between the sound of words and their (invented) meaning in a selection of drawings and sculptures bookended by two excellent films.
The first film, Unkillable (all works cited, 2011), is an approximately twenty-minute monologue performed by Dodge wearing a lumpy gray mask and a cube that seems to have lodged in his skull like a meteorite. Assuming the role of aspiring film director, the masked figure sits on a cheap couch and describes, shot by shot and in gory physical and visual detail, a film about adultery and revenge. A cinematic version of Paul McCarthy’s Painter, 1995, Dodge’s director deflates the auteur by asking us to access our own inner visions of erotic destruction, leaving us to fill in the particulars of sexual preference and gender identity that are usually inscribed in filmmaking and viewing.
The overflowing selection of drawings likewise exercises a masterful control over multiplicity as cartoons meet classified ads meet monochrome abstractions. In contrast, his sculptures direct their polymorphous semiotics through painterly assemblages of household items with erotic, sinister, and organic overtones. Identity Amplitude or Separately Investigable Problems is a cylinder with a domed top standing seventeen inches high, painted lipstick red on one side and mustard gold on the other: an oversize dildo-hammer-mushroom. This mash-up of masculine signifiers and regressive desires acquires greater dimension in the second film, Fred Can Never Be Called Bald, a nearly forty-minute montage that intercuts grainy YouTube videos of Jackass-style pranks and science experiments with poetic intertitles of dictionary definitions of words like conversion and continuum. What kinds of connections, Dodge seems to ask, would you like to make?