New York


Gabrielle Bryers Gallery and Barbara Braathen Gallery

The hysterical intensity of New York’s manic pace produces in its fission/fusion of diverse cultures and social positions a mutant by-product of rational insanity that periodically manifests itself as some new cult hero. Rammellzee is just that sort of genius/madman. In his recent one-person shows he demonstrated the same ability to provoke and amuse us as he has in the past. The novelty of his apocalyptic sci-fi war fantasy may have ebbed since he first entered our mundane consciousness a few years back (and graffiti of any sort is much less revered now than during its heyday, when media hoopla propelled Rammellzee and others to stardom), but his wild voice and dense theoretical monologues have lost none of their strength or magnetism.

Rammellzee’s art incorporates so much scientific, military, and linguistic information that it is hard not to dismiss his confusing techno-poetry as self-indulgent babble. Conversely, however, Rammellzee’s innate sense of lyricism gives his mannered, mathematical prose a quality that draws one in, and the seamlessness of his conceptual invention leads one to wonder whether the meaning is indeed decipherable and whether perhaps it is only our ignorance that makes it sound like gibberish. Rammellzee calls his skewed vision of the universe “Ikonoclastic Panzerism” or “Gothic Futurism.” As the General, the “master killer” or leader of Ikonoclastic Panzerism, Rammellzee is the military architect of the letter. The master planner of a new evolution of the letter as its own assault force, Rammellzee arms the letter as a killing machine based upon the armor of a panzer tank. The metaphoric enemy is “tricknowledges,” the pollutants of meaning and misinformation that disease our culture, represented as some foul-looking gases. He is at once a semiotic engineer of great sophistication and an infantile dreamer with an overactive imagination, a clear scientific thinker and an irrational prima donna. These schizophrenic traits do not so much detract from his credibility as they magnify the urgency of his make-believe reality.

This exhibition of new works explored new regions of his post-apocalyptic warrior world of cosmic conflicts. At Gabrielle Bryers Gallery the peculiar innovation was that the paintings were on rugs. In its emphatic kitschiness this work displayed Rammellzee’s characteristic belligerence. Surely the grotesque effect of fluorescent paint globules on the rug make this his most difficult work to date. Titled collectively “Bands of Steel,” these works explored the theme of the “atomic note: a microscopic tank which only appears at certain temperatures.” At Barbara Braathen Gallery the elaborate fantasy took off into fictional extremes as Rammellzee’s stories escalated into comic book sci-fi. This sort of intensification of a dreamscape best associated with Saturday-morning cartoons is a self-aggrandizing elevation of a low art form to high-art status, just as Rammellzee raises the cultural ante of graffiti to the canon of a postevolutionary deity.

Carlo McCormick