“Apocalypse All the Time”
If we’ve learned anything in the past decade, it’s that the new millennium is no Utopian era of enlightenment where slow but visible progress is made toward world peace, happiness, and prosperity for all. The Twin Towers fell, Americaembarked on a 10-year-long war that expanded beyond anyone’s belief, our big banks led the entire globe into an economic meltdown, and the political process of our own democracy has turned into a media farce. To top it all off, rumor has it that the Mayans predicted the world will end before the year is out.
We are constantly shown and told, through fact-checked reports, mournful infographics, and harangues from talking heads, that the apocalypse is always on our doorstep, just waiting for the right opportunity to step in and seal the deal. For all of us who have grown up under its aegis, this atmosphere of paranoia is just a fact of life, a constant background hum. So what’s to be done about it? Giving up isn’t an option. Social media means nothing can be ignored. Solutions still seem far away, if these concurrent crises are even solvable.
The only response is to laugh — we make fun of what we can’t control. Just as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have become our go-to sources for the only news we might trust, the artists in “No Other Medicine” use humor as a tool to deconstruct what is otherwise impossible to confront. In “My Dad’s Gun Collection,” Susan Graham appropriates her father’s stash of firearms and undermines their potency the visual vocabulary of Reveillon to satirize contemporary politics, adding a repeated motif of smiling portraits of villains like Vladimir Putin and Bernie Madoff to decorative ribbons and banners, simultaneously mocking and re emphasizing the scale to which these figures have influenced our world.
Max Greis and Priscila De Carvalho both use collage techniques to create surreal landscapes; while Greis’s paintings embrace Armageddon in their fantastical visions, De Carvalho’s work recasts imagery of Brazilian slums in the brilliant colors she recalls from childhood. Lori Nix’s photographed dioramas present familiar surroundings that undercut cute with strange: a shipwreck rests just below the surface of a bay; a church houses a graveyard of amusement park relics.
Nature is both friend and foe: Lisa Dahl’s comic video The Lawn shows grass slowly reclaiming a tract of McMansions. Hong Seon Jang’s fungi transform the pages of magazines, the medium of our discontent, into harmless mushrooms that nevertheless threaten to take over the gallery. Minding My Own Business: Voices, by Yuken Teruya, shows new trees sprouting from newspapers documenting the aftermath of Japan’s recent earthquake.
The curators of “No Other Medicine” both acknowledge the cascade of problems we face and present one way of living with them. Humor combines the recognizable with the bizarre, attacking with irony and synthesizing what is painful and confusing into something less difficult to stand up to. What’s so funny? Everything is.