It’s An East Coast/West Coast Thing
By Ann Tarantino
Recently on view at Mixed Greens were two solo exhibitions that examined issues of home and place through the lenses of two artists whose aesthetics are informed by the simultaneous influence of East Coast and West. In the first gallery, the work of Mark Mulroney called to mind what you might get if you combined Margaret Kilgallen and the Seven Dwarves. In "I Wanna Set Up A Little Tent And Live On Your Shoulder," his first solo exhibition in New York, Mulroney combines found imagery with text and drawn and painted passages that stretched across the walls of an entire room, extending into the surrounding corridors. His cheery roomful of drawings and paintings utilizes materials ranging from paper and canvas to cardboard boxes, old skateboards, pieces of wood, and the walls themselves. The images–Smurf village-esque landscapes littered with sparse trees, light bulbs plugged into stones, colorful blobs that look suspiciously like Teletubbies–tend to stray from the confines of their grounds, branching out onto the walls in a sort of connect-the-dots fashion that links each image to the next.
But Mulroney’s is more than a cartoon aesthetic. Mordantly acknowledging that "growing up in Akron, Ohio in the mid-1970s gave me an acute awareness of what it means to be past your prime," Mulroney exhibits an awareness of what is missing from modern lives. In his tree trunks, slingshots, and open skies, we see the Midwest that Mulroney left behind when his family left Akron. In the skateboard decks and washed-out yellows and oranges, we see the Southern California that rushed to greet him. The resulting mish-mash of influences results in a cohesive installation addressing domestic detritus and psychological emptiness while making a cheerful commentary upon various aspects of popular culture.
"Postcard Skies," the simultaneous exhibition of work by Mary Temple on view in the second gallery, offers a quieter look at the competition between East and West in an artist’s mind. Known for her elegant, wistful "Window" paintings–in which she creates dramatic trompe l’oeil depictions of the shadows cast on walls by nonexistent windows–Temple has now turned her attention to photographs, an interest that arose as an offshoot of the research for the "Window" series. After combing her Brooklyn neighborhood for examples of unique shadows, the artist found that her attention quickly shifted to the buildings themselves: After so much looking, they began to feel less like structures and more like personalities. Temple has printed the photographs taken during her jaunts, hand-cut their facades, and removed their windows, inserting behind them the expansive skies of the American Southwest, where she made her home before relocating to New York nearly ten years ago. They look like oddly proportioned dollhouses, miniature movie sets, or actual people, the idiosyncrasies of whom are reflected in titles such as yellowclapboardpolkadot or redfauxbrickredfauxshaker.
The most exciting works are the ones in which the inserted background becomes more than a pretty blue sky; the multicolored sunsets and dry brush landscapes become vaguely menacing and oddly compelling when placed behind the faux shingles of the attached houses. Spooky or sweet, all the images suggest a sense of moving across time and place. Like Mulroney, Temple addresses the familiar and the (seemingly) exotic, the home and the "home away from home," and what happens when East meets West.