Gregory Green

Feigen, Inc.

Gregory Green’s meticulous replicas of pipe bombs, nuclear devices, letter bombs, booby-trapped suitcases, surface-to-air missiles, pirate radio stations, even a terrorist bomb laboratory, peddle an alluring, estheticized fear. His fastidiousness and the technological accuracy of these items gives them an eerie verisimilitude. Even in the relatively rarefied milieu of an art gallery, Green’s sculptures are still unnerving and often deceptive. Last summer the Chicago Police Department raided this gallery and served a search warrant to confiscate Green’s 10,000 Doses, 1995, in the belief that the 12 laboratory bottles contained the amount of liquid LSD indicated by the title. Gallery director Lance Kinz was arrested and booked on the felony charge of manufacturing and possessing a controlled substance, while a warrant was issued for Green’s arrest. Meanwhile, the police broke the seals of two bottles to test their contents, which a mass spectrometry test eventually revealed contained inconsequential amounts of the drug. The charges were then dropped, and the damaged work was returned to the gallery, reinstalled in this exhibition as 230,000 Hits/$1,200,000/Crime Lab Division/Chicago Police (10,000 doses 2nd State).

This extreme response to Green’s teasing subversions was a telling indicator of the curious attraction of his recent show. While visitors to the gallery who request that information are assured that none of these pieces actually “work,” the materials required to set them in motion are so rudimentary that any committed individual could fashion them. Nuclear Device #1, (10 Kilotons, Plutonium 239, Chicago), 1995, is ready to go—one need only replace the baseball Green embedded at its core with about the same amount of actual plutonium. In the basement of the gallery Green installed Work Table #6, 1995, approximating the workstation of a techno-nerd bombsmith with hollowed-out books, clocks, batteries, discarded plates of food and bottles of beer, as well as piles of technical, government, and right-wing manuals, as if to indicate that a senseless and violent death is just a moment of mania away.

Green’s terror-alchemy is given something of a counterpoint in the more peaceful escapist fantasy of his quasi-documentary ruminations on the New Free State of Caroline, an independent nation he proposes to establish in some uninhabited islands of the South Pacific. Its flag flew over the entrance of the gallery, and the evocation of a new Eden made for a dissonant juxtaposition with the implements of destruction inside. Fantasies of complete escape mix with those of anonymous violence, as the desires to smash and then to run far away are commingled.

Adolescent-male dreams of power seem to consciously underpin Green’s vision, which records the exhilaration that stems from fantastic plans to wield control over an environment, even if that control rests in a spectacular ability to wreak violence on one’s enemies—real or imagined. Possessing the power to destroy and get revenge can seem thrilling, and a clinical immersion in the mechanics of its implementation can become a parallel site of pleasure. Green’s neutered fabrications reveal the erotics of aggression, implying that the forces of death and destruction constitute just another outlet for the sexual drive.

James Yood