The gallery itself seems to underscore this point. It’s small, subverting the rather grand institutional title hanging on the door. But that’s OK, even preferable in some ways. If iMOCA feels more like a jukebox than an orchestra hall, that only serves to emphasize its proximity — figurative and quite literal — to the street.
For this opening shot, curator Christopher West has selected four young artists whose work, while various in terms of form and content, speaks a common pop cultural language. The imagery and conceptual play being deployed by most of these works operates on a level akin to comic one-liners or a trebly top 40 single.
Lee Walton’s videos and printed guide to the city of Indianapolis, at their best, are reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s conceptual performances, films and texts from the early 1960s. But where Ono’s work was driven by metaphor, Walton’s plays more like theater of the absurd.
Theresa Goody’s installation involving 20 vintage vacuum cleaners in a variety of settings — on the beach, among redwood trees, in a yard, on a deck — flirts with ideas having to do with the life we ascribe to objects, creating a kind of latter day sorcerer’s apprentice effect. But the piece’s sheer whimsy out runs any reaching after deeper meaning.
Chris Doty’s documentary color photographs of young men in the throes of seemingly self-invented suburban male rites of passage convey a blunt, inarticulate force made slightly weird by the pictures’ rich, often red, hues. The technical beauty of these shots is deliberately at odds with the subject matter à la Mapplethorpe. Unlike Mapplethorpe, though, Doty maintains a kind of journalistic distance.
The two large paintings on view by London-based Nicky Hoberman push this show’s pop rhetoric the farthest. Hoberman’s subjects are adolescents and while Hoberman, at first, seems simply to be skating across a photo-realistic surface, her subjects project a resonance that goes deeper. For Hoberman, youth is mystery. These kids gaze back at us like teen-age bodhisattvas.
All in all, Out of Place One is a smartly selected, entertaining show that generally favors the pleasures of lively social discourse over more contemplative forms of aesthetic experience. Standing in iMOCA’s dapper new space, looking up at the city’s skyline overhead, don’t be surprised if you think you hear voices.
Out of Place One will run at iMOCA, 340 N. Senate Ave., through July 15. The iMOCA gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free.