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Myths of Progress: Utopic Dreams/Dystopic Realities

Kala Gallery is proud to present Myths of Progress, the first in our two-part 2012 exhibition series exploring cycles of time.

Year 2012: For some, it is the mere mention of this calendar date, which can evoke dis-ease and even foreboding. This is the year in which an important event will occur, according to an ancient inscription of a once-flourishing Maya civilization. But whether or not one buys into modern fatalistic readings of those hieroglyphs, of impending doom and calamity, one thing is certain: If we are not now entering “The End Times,” we are clearly in the midst of a period of radical changes. Could simply be the endpoint of another great cycle, a transition to a more hopeful phase, and an embarcation on promising new projects, of physical and spiritual transformation and renewal? Will we at last see our frailties as a species transcended? Or have we already been down this road before?

In Myths of Progress, artists respond to these auspicious times, with works that veer from dreams of a renewable utopia, to an assortment of brave new failures emblemized by apocalyptic landscapes, and wildly out-of-control technologies.

Anna Ayeroff (Los Angeles) presents a multi-media installation work that explores her family’s personal history in Clarion, Utah—a Jewish farming colony that was originally envisioned as a utopian community. Ayeroff weaves together a slideshow of multiple narratives that blur the facts and fiction of Clarion’s ruinous decline and failed dreams.

Jeff Eisenberg (San Francisco) creates highly detailed graphite drawings of artifacts and detritus often associated with the built environment; fringe communities; utopian strategies and speculative futures. Stark yet impressively executed, Eisenberg’s drawings offer an intriguing look at the convergence of radical values and agendas, and the ways in which these issues imprint on objects and daily life.

Alison OK Frost (Oakland) works in watercolor, a medium typically associated with picturesque landscapes, to interpret disturbing images from news sources, found snap shots and movie stills. Frost’s watercolors depict absurdly dystopic yet commonplace images, such as workers in HazMat suits, automotive airbags and disaster scenes—all incongruously painted, with a beautiful delicacy that produces odd tensions between content and artistic process.

Jessica Ingram (Oakland) photographically documents the American landscape for signs and markers that express the extremes of hope and failure in contemporary life. Ingram’s reflections on daily life and ideologies, whether religious, patriotic or poetic, are thoughtfully revealed in the daily passage of what is held dear and what has been left behind in a culture that is constantly in flux.

Michael Krueger (Lawrence, KS) looks to the not-so-distance past in his exploration of 1960s-1970s utopian hippy communes. Visually inspired by the graphics of the era’s psychedelic posters and underground newspaper formats, Krueger’s work is imbued with a humorous sense of optimism and decadence, tempered by a touching tenderness and sad hopelessness. Krueger will be presenting new lithographs from Vermillion Editions, located in Amarillo, TX.

Michael McConnell (San Francisco) presents a series of sculptures that draw parallels between the end of childhood innocence and the dystopic despair of Paradise Lost. Utilizing both discarded children’s stuffed animals and taxidermy forms, McConnell creates poetic visual associations melding the violence and erosion of our relations with the natural world, to the heartfelt loss of childlike hopes and dreams.

Erik Parra’s (San Francisco) paintings draw inspiration from an array of images collected from disparate sources: vintage thrift-store magazines, found photographs, popular books and the internet. From these sources, Parra forges images that depict the development of modern America, creating darkly humorous works that question our American authenticity through the lens of his alternative cultural narratives.

Walter Robinson (San Francisco) comments on the irony of modern life with his meticulously hand-crafted, yet unsettling works. Working in combinations of assembled objects, signage and sculptural tableaux, Robinson’s work uncovers the subconscious and biological human imperatives hidden beneath social, political, religious and capitalist packaging.

Ben Venom (San Francisco) imaginatively juxtaposes traditional handmade crafts with one of the more extreme musical genres – Heavy Metal. Defying easy description, Venom works with silk-screened Heavy Metal t-shirts (think Iron Maiden) that are reassembled into finely hand-crafted quilts. Quoting Venom: “Even Ozzy Osbourne needs a warm blanket now and then.”