Good Intentions

Aaron Johnson, Assi Meshullam, Lisa Sanditz, Ryan Schneider,

Shay Kun, Tai Shani, Tom Sanford.


As in a fantasy or dream, the gallery space contains the past, present and future commingling in a superfluity of familiar images, images drawn from the collective subconscious, the two-dimensional and three-dimensional compounded within sound and silence.

The exhibition "Good Intentions" deals both with topics familiar to the updated viewer, as well as the critique of them. In their works the painters try to point to social-economic-political developments in Western culture. For example, the works of Lisa Sanditz, Tom Sanford and Shay Kun can be seen as dealing with the complexity of the relationship between the U.S. and China. Sanford takes the images of Mao and responds, turning Mao into a zombie, a popular culture icon or a man dressed in S&M attire. In her previous works, Sanditz dealt with the topographical changes in the landscapes of China and the U.S. as a result of the mass production of consumer products, thus raising the question of dependency between the two superpowers' economies. One of her paintings in this exhibition shows SpongeBob SquarePants, the hero of a children's animated television series identified with American culture though its brand-name merchandise is actually manufactured in China. SpongeBob is depicted wearing a Santa Claus hat, his body lying in a children's pool in an American town abandoned after the last economic crisis. This sad end transports SpongeBob, like a yellow Ophelia, to the heights of Shakespearian tragedy.

Kun depicts ancient caves in strong pop colors inside these caves hot water balloons are forever trapped. The caves are a popular touristic hotspot for the American tourist crowd in China. Inside stalactite caves Kun creates a contrast that foreshadows a bad omen.

The work of Aaron Johnson reflects the deterioration of American culture. Johnson turns Jesus into an object that looks like half a turkey served for dinner on Thanksgiving Eve. The holiday rewrites American history, denying the murder of the indigenous inhabitants and creating the myth of an emergence of a pioneer and pluralist nation.

The works of Tai Shani and Ryan Schneider betray the contemporary generation of artists' attitude vis-à-vis the feelings of alienation and loss of identity in their era. Shani tells the story of an actress who loses her identity, turning into an empty incubus of the character she plays. Schneider depicts modern man being swallowed by American consumer culture and banal male chauvinism.

Likewise, formalistic issues are addressed by the paintings in the exhibition, e.g., the return to a Pop-Trash style of painting and garish coloration are grasped as an attempt to endlessly recreate a moment that has passed, a moment that contains within it a glorification of consumer culture's beauty and colorfulness with all of its tempting, addictive advertisements and billboards, and of its emptiness as well.

The themes emerging from these works represent an attempt by the artists to expose, dig up, point out and intelligently observe the contemporary state of culture. Opposite them, like onlookers, stand the statues by Assi Meshullam; like worldly-wise creatures, like ghosts of the past come to mend the ills of the future. They are equipped with litters and bandages, but it is unclear whether in order to heal or in order to kill. As such who have already experienced the fall of mighty empires, they are present at the exhibition and, looking back, can truly attest: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

"So where do girls who don't dream go to when they are asleep? She asked." And I'm asking: what happens when reason sleeps? Thus are monsters born. As in a nightmare, among the exhibitions works crop up grotesque hybrids, partly recognizable and partly invented (half-Mao, half-Jesus, half-SpongeBob, half-woman, half-zombie), that bear witness to the disruption of the ideologies that began with such good intentions.

Ofra Harnam