The collaborative show by Angelbert Metoyer and Charlie Koolhaas at Sandler Hudson Gallery threatens to fall apart conceptually (which could also be a trademark of good art?). The exhibition centers on the premise that this motley collection of collages, photographs, drawings, and paintings depicts Global Static. Static is unintelligible noise, insofar as it fails to muster the minimum amount of information to convey a message. And when I say message, I mean any message—visual, rhetorical, or anything coherent enough to comprise a whole.
But wait a minute; I guess static does comprise a whole. And, maybe, that’s the definition of art itself: something that isn’t intelligible enough to convey a definite message, but whole enough to convey an image, thought, emotion, or any of these in combination. Global Static attempts to make an analogy between the authenticity/effectiveness of cultural iconography and the unintelligibility of signal noise.
The digital collages in the show are very reminiscent of another Sandler Hudson artist, Carmon Colangelo. Both exhibit a murky in-between-genres quality. Both also leave a residual ambiguity about the appropriated imagery’s original tone. Colangelo’s work is obviously meant to be slightly ridiculous with its floating eyeballs and swirling distorted characters; sometimes a random eyeball overlaps an appropriated head to create a monster.
However, Metoyer and Koolhaas start with a cast of dangerous baggage-leaden images. Ethnic profiles with exaggerated protruding lips are placed beside a horse’s profile; the same exaggerated profile is again placed beside a mutated baby. In a fancy mirrored light box on the other side of the gallery, an Apache warrior impotently floats inside a constellation. The effect of all of this juxtaposition is a softening of the emotionally charged content. The characters take on the dreamy quality of a Jungle Book fable, perhaps appropriate given that Angelbert Metoyer is descended from Cane River Creoles from Natchitoches, Louisiana—the birthplace of Jazz, progenitor of Charles Mingus (the famed author of “Fables of Faubus”), and an excellent example of a contemporary diaspora that softens its charged experience by telling a story. Or, that’s my tangled logic, at least.
Compounding the ambiguous tone of the show, a drawing of four flattened views of a figure recurs throughout Global Static. The recurrent image depicts teleportation, and at first, it reminded me of a scene from the Return of the Living Dead. In the scene, protagonists stumble onto a zombie dog in a warehouse that has been chopped in half, Damien Hirst style, but is still zealously barking and wagging its tail. Needless to say, the drawing adds a sinister element to the show, creating an inverted comic tone. The teleportation icon also suggests a theme of mutation/reproduction, and reminds me of science textbooks depicting amoeba regeneration. And, apparently, teleportation itself works on the supposition that a thing can be temporarily copied and can thrive in the surrogate future, only to return to its suspended past.
Zombification is a metaphor that could aptly characterize anything from the bastardization of genres, over-extended Capitalism, or even love in general. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but the show seems to be more about zombification than static, per se. The photos of Guangzhou, Dubai, and London that serve as backdrops for the complex blend of imagery (zombies) contribute to this sense of zombification: These locales and the swirling confused icons have lost their meaning. Perhaps the images represent a perennial traveler’s postmodern over-saturation.
In summary, despite the ambiguities in tone and content, Global Static very intuitively makes visual comparisons between its own Creole genre bending—a mode intrinsically full of idyllic hybridization—and the noisy zombification of contemporary cross-cultural iconography.