“The Good Outlaw”: Jeffrey Cyphers Wright at AC Institute

2010. Jeffrey Cyphers Wright.

By David St.-Lascaux

The writing is on the wall. And it’s conspiratorial. “The Good Outlaw,” Jeffrey Cyphers Wright’s exhibition at AC Institute [Direct Chapel] (May 13 – June 19, 2010), represents a joint effort between the artist, attendees of the show’s happening / opening on 13 May, 2010, and ongoing visitors to the gallery.

The work is a “graffiti, stencil and collage mural that… employ[s] the tools of street art.” Wright’s writing is done on a floor-to-ceiling, hallway-length, wouldn’t-you-like-to-have-a-room-clad-with-this blackboard wall (actually, I was in such a room, in the office of an oil executive, the black symbolic as well as practical for his end-of-world calculations). The writing – mene mene tekel upharsin was not detected – appropriately provocative, included vernacular statements critical of Adam Smith, Arizona’s immigration law and British Petroleum, laudatory comments and other Wright-induced exuberancies (be sure to watch the YouTube at this link and herein), such as “god’s toy” and “buddha’s revenge.”

“The Good Outlaw” opening

The opportunity to contribute presented by quarter-roll-size pieces of pastel chalk created an “aw, shucks” moment for a normally grapholalic correspondent (Kilroy was here…? Vaya con Dios, Jefe…? The Answer is 42…? Let’s not be L7: Come and learn to dance…? … and if Simone and I were killed, then the universe of our unbearable personal vision was certain to be replaced by the pure stars…? [pdf] One is uncertain…).

The wall’s visual imagery was a perfect right-brain contrast to the sanctioned graffiti. A stencil of Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell (Pourquoi? One suspects because she represents “fair use” appropriation of the Mighty Disney’s [NYSE: DIS] intellectual property, and because she is an innocent symbol of the magic thinking of global corporatism, but that may be the anthropomorphic projection of an overdeveloped imagination.); an exquisite corpse; Victorian lace, Mondrianian colored squares, a renaissance nude, Op Art and baby feet; a smiling Afro-wearing female genie (jinnīyah), a blonde-in-spandex superwoman, a lucky bunny, a skull and a trey of flail-wielding jesters. What’s not to like?

“The Good Outlaw,” in providing a collaborative outlet for spontaneous expression, also celebrates personal contribution at a time in which the validity of free-range individualism, such as that of the conservative Tea Party, is looking shaky. However, judging from the elated expressions of the show’s attendees, you can have it both ways: individual expression gains meaning and reinforcement in the group setting, and everybody’s happy. You probably shouldn’t expect Shakespearean apothegms in extemporaneous chalk, but rather just good fun, when the purveyor is a poet artist and the art is that that “robs from the snobs and gives back to a host of restless rebels.”

Works by three other artists were also on display at AC. Ruben Aubrecht’s “Please Be Patient” comprised a humorously sardonic video installation of four small black televisions on the floor with varying monotonous or contentless content (e.g., a DVD logo with the message “LOADING….” or one of rain on the screen). Selin Kocagöncü’s “Teacher’s Dilemma” repeated on blackboard (after-school punishment?) the hilarious “Oedipus meets hannah höch | They enjoy some coffee and cigarettes | engage in chit-chat.” Roma Pas’s “Early Picture” was an installation that included a wall covered with the “backsides of photo paper,” a “semi-spatial (i.e., bas-relief) remake of an early picture by Auguste Rosalie Bisson,” and “Larger than life,” a collage- and Monty Python-like morphing Flash® expression of Eyjafjallajokull, the prolific Icelandic volcano. These installations made up in visuality, earnestness and good-natured humor anything they may have lacked in depth.

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