Los Angeles

Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video with CGI and hand-drawn animation, color, sound, 13 minutes 55 seconds.

Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video with CGI and hand-drawn animation, color, sound, 13 minutes 55 seconds.

Jordan Wolfson

Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video with CGI and hand-drawn animation, color, sound, 13 minutes 55 seconds.

Jordan Wolfson appears in his Raspberry Poser, 2012—a fourteen-minute video that premiered this winter at LA’s REDCAT—as a shaven-headed punk, his leather jacket emblazoned with the names of the Clash and the Jam, his bovver boots kicking up dust on a remarkably anodyne dérive through the streets of Paris. In one telling scene, the New York artist is shown wearing blackface while chatting amiably with an older gent on a park bench in the Sixième. A politically fraught collection of codes that would once have provoked fear and loathing in passersby fails here even to raise an eyebrow. Repeatedly in the video, Wolfson reminds us that the confrontational shock tactics of the original avant-gardes and their countercultural offshoots have been safely contained and neutralized. The point is reiterated elsewhere in the video in a computer-generated image of a condom floating, ghostlike, across footage shot mainly in New York’s SoHo district, bearing a load not of semen but of heart-shaped red blood cells. Restrained from penetrating any other body, this potentially virulent, HIV-threatening content spills out the condom’s back end to bounce playfully about the cityscape—a flight of red balloons.

In pairing New York with Paris, Wolfson sets up his audience to chart the course of “real” art from salon to museum to gift shop. SoHo, onetime center of thriving studio and gallery life, has become a province of upper-end mall culture, and Paris, having left la vie bohème far behind, now a default destination for unimaginative tourists in thrall to Les Mis. Over such scenes of late-capitalist tedium, Wolfson has laid a sound track of remixed hit love songs: “You could be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare,” sings Beyoncé, for instance, lending an appropriately conflicted tone to the proceedings, one that arrives via a whole other, non-art context—but, really, how other is any form of cultural production anymore? Wolfson razes the distinction between art’s postures of critical resistance and outright submission to the entertainment industry. After all, directors of music videos regularly troll galleries for inspiration and cite their products without comment; this artist repays the “favor” in full. Popular confections are exploited for their affective potential above all, and those who would complain that Raspberry Poser is indistinguishable from a Beyoncé video (while tapping their toes to the beat), Wolfson takes to be his target audience.

Alternating with the seamlessly modeled Pixar-style imagery of the blood-filled condom, an earlier form of animation is recalled in the cartoon of a chubby, disheveled boy, likewise superimposed over documentary-style footage of high-end consumer spaces. Rendered with thick contour lines and unmodulated washes of color, this character seems to have been sourced from ’70s-era Saturday-morning TV, perhaps a segment of Schoolhouse Rock, his stylized flatness now all the more poignantly tethered to the labor of the hand. As he grins broadly with outstretched arms and “gimme, gimme” fingers one minute and calmly commits suicide the next, the figure becomes yet another stand-in for the artist as manic-depressive joke, a shopworn stereotype like the punk in the Tuileries, careening gracelessly toward extinction.

We follow the boy as he moves about, suspended over a rapid-fire finger-flicking image search on a cell phone—a passage from Renaissance sketch to New Yorker comic that pulses through Cubism, AbEx, and Pop along the way. The message of this brief history lesson is clear: Over time, art’s provocations have proved homeopathic, every virus-like mutation of the aesthetic serving only to strengthen the immunity of the public it was designed to infect. One might expect this point to be registered with disappointment, but perhaps the video’s most striking aspect is its giddily euphoric tone. No doubt in reference to the specter of AIDS that haunts this entire video, Wolfson’s cartoon avatar asks (in the artist’s own voice) if we think he is homosexual, to which he replies (now via a woman’s voice) “no.” From the point of production, Wolfson’s video seemed to suggest that the art of the future will be polysexual, polymorphous, and promiscuous, and from the point of reception, the cumulative impact of Rasberry Poser is perhaps best summarized in these words of a fellow viewer: “I don’t know if I like it, but I do want to fuck it.”

Jan Tumlir