New York

John Marmaras

Studio Show

John Marmaras, an artist from a photographic reportage background which he generally rejects as “reheating ideas already established by art” showed some witty videos—videos, unlike a lot of the genre, which weren’t punishment by tedium. Embracing a Conceptual-art history and without the luggage of conventional training in the history of art, Marmaras has for the last year and a half been working in the general area of grammatical structures, and how they condition visual information. These videos come from this. Starting off with an interest in captioning, Marmaras recently has been exploring homonyms: words pronounced the same with different meanings. Pairs of homonyms, one an image and the other a word, were his first pieces. A set of polaroids showed, for example, a picture of a piece of steak with the word stake printed on top; a picture of a maze had maize on it. And so on. Euphemisms, another later work, used photographs of objects which were slang for sexual organs. Straight photographs of a cat, box, and beaver or of a donkey, can, or butt were shown next to each other. You guessed the organs. Marmaras chose videos to do the present works, simply called Homonyms, because he wanted to use verbs rather than nouns and video seemed more appropriate than still photographs. Showing little scenarios, each piece is a consequence of Marmaras’ acting out the meaning of a verbal homonym on its noun counterpart. All are short and hilarious. For example, a wooden box is boxed viciously by an anonymous boxing glove; a set of kitchen bowls is bowled—unsuccessfully—along the ground; a spray of flowers is sprayed by an aerosol can; a written riddle is riddled with holes through the paper; prunes are meticulously pruned to nothing by large shears, and in one of the most dramatic pieces lamb chops are chopped to bits with a large axe. Accepting the verbal side of each homonym as a categorical imperative, Marmaras forces himself into inventing a successful action for each.

James Collins