Scratch-Your-Head Mysterious

What's going on here? It's all about radical transformations and the peculiar in the everyday

Upstairs, the mysteries continue. A pair of mobiles from Mike Kelley's Repressed Spatial Relationships Rendered as Fluid series brackets the long, narrow space at the top of the stairs: No. 1: Martian School (Work Site) and No. 5: John Glenn High School with White Panther Satellite. On one level, they're just visually appealing constructions of metal and plastic emphasizing simple geometric forms. But each is accompanied by an identically titled diagram of sorts, in mixed media on butcher paper mounted on rag paper and framed, that identifies the components of the piece. The Martian School, for example, includes a gym, an entrance lobby, an incinerator, a janitor room, and a faculty toilet. That these sketched components don't correspond exactly to their three-dimensional counterparts compounds the alien aura.

Such a disconnect also characterizes the work of two photographers, Alex Morrison and Rob Fischer, that's posted on opposite walls between Kelley's mobiles. Morrison's Open Air Cinema consists of a series of four huge color images documenting the creation of a piece of graffiti art in an open, outdoor space (the setting looks to be European). The shots appear to overlap but are also taken from different vantage points and at different points in time, and the spectators and camera crews recording the event are as much a part of the focus as the artwork itself, which isn't especially interesting.

Fischer's nine color photos, mounted on Plexiglas panels and displayed as a group, are also documentary in nature, but again with a twist. In each, we see a mobile home or RV engulfed in flames, and there's a tentative quality to the imagery, as if it's glimpsed from the window of a passing vehicle. And on closer inspection, it becomes clear that the fire and smoke have been superimposed, painted onto the photographs with acrylic.

Scoreboard: A splendid mess. But whodunnit?
Scoreboard: A splendid mess. But whodunnit?

I haven't mentioned the work of more than half the artists included in "I Feel Mysterious Today," in part because some of the artists seem to embody and convey the spirit of the stated theme more compellingly than others. But I must also conclude, reluctantly, that the exhibition includes a good deal of filler. Just because PBICA has an abundance of great display space doesn't mean it has to be filled.

Even one of my favorite artists in the show ultimately overstays his welcome. The same Douglas Gordon whose Scratch Hither beckons us at the entrance has nine other single-channel video installations on display throughout the museum. All involve hands; some include arms and feet as well. One, the appropriately named Blue, features two hands stroking and caressing each other in ways so amazingly suggestive of progressively more intense sexual interplay that it's almost embarrassing to watch them -- we're put, intentionally, in the awkward position of having stumbled upon a couple in flagrante delicto.

As bookends of sorts to "I Feel Mysterious Today," Scratch Hither and Blue don't simply complement each other; they complete a narrative arc. As just two in a series, they get lost in the shuffle, so that each is somehow diminished. The crooked finger of Scratch Hither that lured us into the exhibition ends up impatiently pulling us back out.

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