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STEVEN SIMON

March 13 - April 10, 2010 at L2kontemporary, Chinatown

by Shirle Gottlieb




Steven Simon, “Link 2” (detail) 2009,
painted pasta and mixed media.













Steven Simon, “Link,” 2009,
painted pasta and mixed media.

The name of this exhibit gives you fair warning. "Perhaps" as a noun means "something open to conjecture."  "Perhaps" as an adjective means "possibly, could be, may be, conceivably, or perchance." In other words, if you haven't had a good night’s sleep, don't mess with artist Steven Simon. Not only are the twelve works on display highly conceptual, they are loaded with subtext that has myriad possibilities: political, satirical, sociological, ecological and intellectually playful.

Three related large-scale sculptural installations,"Link," Link 2" and "There," are instant attention grabbers.  Created from thousands of pieces of vibrantly painted pasta, these gorgeous works are facsimiles of living coral reefs. Since the world's magnificent organic formations are slowly dying from toxic pollution, and (purportedly) life is only as strong as its weakest "link"--what feasible, possible, conceivable effect will the coral reefs' death have on human survival?  "Perhaps" if they cease to exist, so eventually will we.

On another level entirely, there are two "portraits" of our former vice president. The first one ("Cheney 2012?") is an autographed, 60 x 42 inch colored photograph of his oh-so-familiar smirk (Is he, perchance, planning to run for president in two years?).  The second one, "Cheney 2012 Neoprene," is a replica of a neoprene active carbon dust mask, worn for protection from bacterial warfare. Close by is a hard-edge hand painted sign of a black capitol "X" with a small "e" embedded in it. Titled "Formerly Blackwater," it's the logo for the new name of the Bush administration’s favorite mercenary army.

Five years ago, Simon mounted 25 identical photographs of Condeleeza Rice on the wall of a previous exhibit. With a defiant  appearance and a dazzling crown on her head, she stared directly into your eyes. Now that "Queen Condi" is out of office, Simon has  replaced her with 32 life-sized images of "Queen Michelle," whose  smile lights up the gallery. Although Condi's presence has been reduced to a single picture, her scowling expression conveys just how her facimile feels about being deposed.

Most of the work in "Perhaps" is delightful to view, intriguing to reflect on and intellectually witty. "Lymphoma," however, is deeply personal. It’s an introspective work that refers to the artist's father. You’ll need a little back story to fully appreciate and understand it. Simon's father was severely brain-damaged by radiation treatments he received for lymphatic cancer. As such, "Lymphoma" takes the form of an eight-feet-tall column that stands silently in the corner like an ever-present sentinel. One side has the strong, regular pattern of redwood planks; the other is roughly textured from being chewed over time by his father's loyal dog, his constant companion through it all.

Another haunting work is the artist's enigmatic “Self Portrait.” Created out of clay 25 years ago, its powerful shape evokes the image of prehistoric man. Contributing to this impression is the rough, irregular surface under a thick dark glaze and its lack of distinct features. Raw red and white irregular gashes are sufficient to suggest the eyes and mouth. In line with the theme of this exhibit, "perhaps" the work is unfinished because Simon's life is unfinished.

In total contrast to Simon's self-portrait, a sculpture labeled "Mundane" is just that--a rectangular-shaped aluminum box with the letters of its title spelled out in bas relief. On display without distinction, it is nonetheless delightful as a "mundane" image that reflects its definition.

Perhaps, maybe, just possibly (but not certainly), this is an exhibit you might want to experience for yourself.