New York

Jim Anderson

Jim Anderson’s formal lexicon derives from the guitar, which he perverts into all manner of what Duchamp called “objets d’ard,” including sculptures of bedpans, sex toys, and S/M paraphernalia of obscure purpose, to name but a few. In Swan Song (all works 1995), a V-shaped guitar is no longer a prosthetic rock-star penis but has been coaxed into a form simultaneously resembling a swan and a strappado. One of the accompanying videos shows the artist bound to this torture device, the wings of the V pinioning his arms behind his head, the neck of the sculpture sidling down his spine into his ass. All of the works in the exhibition are featured in the continuously playing videos—slickly produced clips that alternate flashes of T&A (both male and female) with dynamic shots of the works. The esthetic is strictly Robin Byrd: upbeat Muzak, strobe lights, bright colors. At what point did the beach-towel color scheme replace black as the sine qua non of S/M anyway? Everything associated with porn used to be sleazy, but now it’s just cheesy, and Anderson exploits the strip-mall strip-club look like a maestro.

As a whole the videos serve as infomercials for the sculptures: it’s surprising not to see a 1-900 number flash across the screen atop some wiggling, jiggling body part. In fact, many of the sculptures would be unintelligible without the videos. For Ride, the artist sculpted a form out of wood and painted it with a pinkish pigment dissolved in polymer solution (a process similar to the one used in finishing certain guitars). The resulting piece looks as if an air-pressure hose had been inserted into an acoustic guitar causing it to balloon to nearly human size with attendant deformations of the original form. What could you possibly do with this ovoid blob? A video shows the artist locked inside it, his head poking up through what used to be the sound hole, looking rather helpless as the device rocks back and forth on its bottom. In every case, Anderson steers these forms away from their original function (music) toward a new one (psychodrama) and art happens somewhere in the process.

A third component to Anderson’s multimedia installation was a computer set up in the gallery to access a World Wide Web site where photographs of his sculptures, video stills, and short QuickTime clips of the videos themselves were made available. Anderson’s talent is largely parodic in nature: the videos take the language of cheesy porn and exploit it for artistic ends, and the sculptures infest a certain kind of “lyric” abstraction with playful sadism. But in the absence of any established lexicon to parody in dgitial media (or perhaps in the absence of technical savvy on the part of the artist), the Web site descends into something comparable to a mere catalogue of the Sears variety—in other words, it hardly qualifies as a component in any multipartite art attempt. Multimedia artists should know their limits too: Anderson ought to stick to planning a potentially brilliant future in bimedia.

Keith Seward