New York

Toland Grinnell

Basilico Fine Arts

Pity the poor white boy. Here, at the beginning of the end of everything, he is having a hard time. His dick is mostly limp, or in the wrong place, or sometimes just cut off altogether (at which point, it’s spread all over the news). Strange and alien things and people and technology press in on him from all sides: black people and brown people and women and computers and cars that talk back. Previously assured of his divine right to rule the world, the white boy is currently discovering that it isn’t quite as divine or right as it used to be. Which leaves the white boy in the position that everybody else has always occupied: poised, more or less, before the abyss. Or, alternatively, left all alone on his own private island hell: “Marooned . . . Again . . . ” as Toland Grinnell has it. Bummer.

There are lots of possible responses to this new insecurity, and Grinnell’s elegantly half-baked/half-assed installation is as good as any, I suppose. Vinyl, after all, has been the signifier of lameness since its inception—no one’s ever said “Yessir, this is real vinyl here!” with anything like pride. So what better medium to use in order to stage your own personal exploration of lameness? There was lots and lots of vinyl here; it oozed out over everything, it covered walls and floors and ceiling, and the reception area, even. In the front room, there was a vinyl island with a vinyl dog lying next to a vinyl palm tree; there were vinyl rocks and a vinyl treasure chest, too. Further back in the gallery, down a squishy, smelly hallway, there was a vinyl mock-up of a pirate’s room, complete with squishy molding and trim (for some reason, this was the creepiest room of the installation). A gorilla—once blonde, but somewhat denuded now—lay on the floor in the back, along with all the other vinyl pirate props: guns, a hat, a peg leg. It was a Toon Town creep show laid out in Real Life, fun left for dead in the sun, allowed to ripen and rot: complete with unpleasant odor, nasty fleshy colors and textures. (I will omit the obvious Paul McCarthy/Matthew Barney/Claes Oldenburg references at this point, since you already know all that anyway.)

The story that went with this foray into the limp was pretty lame, too. Literally as well as figuratively: on the video monitor that spun in circles on the ceiling, you could see the vinyl pirate attempting to get around on the vinyl island on his vinyl peg leg. There was a lot of falling down and lurching around—aborted attempts at efficacy within the confines of this miniature domain. And it’s not like conversation helped. The vinyl dog didn’t listen, didn’t talk back; neither did the gorilla. At the last, the pirate turned to yanking out the gorilla’s hair from sheer boredom and frustration. So that effectively left the pirate alone, rambling on and on, making endless bad jokes mostly having to do with “seamen” and “semen,” apparently with no hope of anything, not even the coming of Friday.

Which is not to say that all of this is without a certain kind of charm: like going to Denny’s at 3:00 A.M., or truck stops in Oklahoma, or those restaurants that you find in malls and airports. You did it, you’re sort of sorry you did it, and you’ll probably do it again—there’s a kind of nasty beauty to such experiences. A friend summed it up: “Hey man, it’s the Vinyl Solution.”

Mark Van de Walle