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CARROUSEL
JANUARY–FEBRUARY, 2007

Artists: Marcus Cain, Leo Esquivel, Eric Grimes, Beniah Leuschke, Mike Sinclair, James Trotter and Egawa+Zbryk



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In the context of the 10th Anniversary of the Charlotte Street Foundation awards, this show recontextualized the work of past Charlotte Street Winners and proposed additional artists overdue to receive the award. In organizing the show, I was keen to look at work by artists I had not worked with in the past. The show was an experiment in flexibility — all the studio visits in preparation for the exhibition were conducted at the end of December — the artists were simply asked to show brand new work, older work never before seen or to reconfigure past installations.

A few cultural references served as additional impetus for the show. It's title stems from the 1976 Sci-Fi film Logan's Run. The film depicts a dystopian community that euthanizes is citizens at 30. Carrousel is the ritual in which participants are promised rebirth, but are actually killed in a human bug-zapper. A second reference is the prevalence of abandoned theme parks throughout the United States and particularly the abandoned Heritage USA Park in South Carolina. This sprawling, gospel-oriented oasis was founded by Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and at one point was the third largest theme park in the United States. Now it sits in ruin.

Rather than serving as guidelines for the exhibition, these and other references triangulate a set of ideas contained in the artist's work and the show as a whole. The exhibit encompasses derailed fantasies, exploded dreams and suspended celebrations. At one end of this spectrum is amusement, playfulness, ecstasy, salvation, and at the other lurks deception, dark underbellies and death.

Marcus Cain's large wall installation is made from vinyl tape and creates a mountainous landscape in hyper-saturated colors and vertigo-inducing patterns.  Together with a smaller painting that features a climber navigating a similar terrain, the works refer to quests with unknown outcomes. Leo Esquivel showed his latest sculpted pillow from a series of works lauded for their formal beauty and for serving as grounds for tenderly painted dreams, nightmares and the subconscious. His work is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that although God may be in one's heart, he's not always on the mind.

Beniah Leuschke, known primarily as a sculptor who sets linguistic traps, showed a performance documented by an edition of commemorative plates. Leuschke spelled out ROAD DOES NOT END in Post-it Notes on an LED Highway sign, thus creating a temporary promise for an eternal outcome. Mike Sinclair reached back into his archives to present photographs taken throughout the Midwest and California from 1980 until 2007 at sites such as county fairs, carnivals, Cabela's and Branson. Sinclair's images of down-home decadence and the architecture of entertainment depict the merger of fantasy with the utterly mundane.

James Trotter's new drawings seethe with color. From a macro view they are celebrations of life, yet their details are rooted in its underbelly; the works are literal minefields of crass associations, vintage comic characters and explosions of energy. Egawa + Zbryk are industrial designers and artists whose works sensuously envision a futureworld akin to Fantastic Planet. Their works in Carrousel operate on multiple scales; they are both contained interventions and models for outsize gestures.

Eric Grimes' images occupy the darkest territory of the exhibition. Created by scanning found objects, it is his choice of subject matter — a mauled Mormon Bible, an elegantly disemboweled bird or a Peruvian Llama luck charm — that introduces absolute beauty to utter terror.