"CAPITAL CRIMES"

 

Scot Sothern, "Watchful Eyes" from the "Drive by Shooting" series, 2012, photograph.

 

 

October 6 - December 22, 2012 at BC Space, Orange County

by Roberta Carasso

 

Mark Chamberlain is known for mounting riveting exhibitions that make some bristle and some cheer; these are shows that ask profound questions that provoke everyone to think hard and deep concerning pervasive social issues. At last count, over 60 artists contributed to his latest effort, "Capital Crime$," which deals with the enormously destructive role money and power wield and what they are doing to our own and other cultures. A primary impetus for the show is an essay by Thomas Frank in Harper’s Magazine, April 2012. Frank discusses how “the power of concentrated money has subverted professions, destroyed small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en mass, and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer."

 

 

Scot Sothern, "Watchful Eyes" from the "Drive by Shooting" series, 2012, photograph.

 

 

Artists are affected and express how via the art created for this show. The work deals with exploitation, ruling classes of fat cats, financial gains that have been subverted, and a blatant expansion of power where the top of the pyramid devastates and flattens those below. Most sadly, it affects the American, no, the world’s way of life. Now that another major election is upon us, Chamberlain feels the timing is right to ask artists the question: “Do you have anything to say about this dire situation and would you like to add your voice to the debate?” In an overwhelming response artists submitted sculpture, paintings, drawings, collage, video, mixed media, and photographs.

 

Caution is appropriate in considering such an explosively political exhibition. The message could easily devour the aesthetics, turning art into mere propaganda. To cite a few excellent individual examples: Scott Sothern’s photograph, "Watchful Eyes," captures a homeless man bedded down for the night under a Ruben Soto mural portrait of Kent Twitchell. The huge cropped head with its piercing eyes overpoweringly looks down on the man as he sleeps at the wall below. Lynn Kubasek creates "Two-Chair Hot Seats." Wooden chairs are painted in bright yellow, blacks, and reds as if they are on fire, connoting the burning of society and how it is we who are now in the hot seat. Chamberlain, in the spirit of collaboration, added the folded American flag that rests neatly and militarily on one of the chairs. That calm demeanor contrasts dramatically with the agitation of the flames below it.

 

Lev Anderson’s 9-minute video nails spirit and intent of the exhibition. "John Doe Falling Down" uses old film clips starting with Gary Cooper’s John Doe, an innocent who is seduced by powerful and corrupt bankers who bankroll his political career. The video moves on to other classic clips, including Michael Douglas being treated rudely in a fast food joint with its false advertising. At the end, a half-crazed and frustrated Douglas wants to go home. For Anderson, "home" was a time when people were treated with equanimity, decency, and an honest exchange. But as Frank wrote in his Harper's piece: “Now it has come for our democracy itself."