Il Duce Does Wal-Mart

The Art and Culture Center brims with art that takes liberties with corporate images

D.C. Comics has likewise failed to suppress Mark Chamberlain's 2005 watercolors that offer alternative interpretations of Batman and his cohorts. How Bout It, Penguin depicts the Dark Knight in a compromising position with his nemesis. Robin on Steroids presents a buff pretty boy who would be perfectly at home on South Beach, while Languid Robin is less in-your-face but equally homoerotic.

The Art and Culture Center's tiny first-floor elevator foyer has proved to be a perfect spot for video installations. For this exhibition, we get three that were among the top 10 best short subjects as designated by Indiewire and Artforum magazines in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Mike Nourse's Terror, Iraq, Weapons (2002) is an unnerving three-minute montage that highlights George W. Bush's use of those three terms (and variations thereof) to "brand" his political escapades. Michael Colton's Puppy Love, also from 2002, is a one-minute clip of a feisty bull terrier enthusiastically humping a stuffed animal.

The exhibition culminates with a trio of videos. Brian Springer's hourlong Spin (1995) collects unauthorized satellite footage of various politicians tailoring their spiels for different markets, and Brad Neely's Wizard People, Dear Reader (2003) is an unauthorized "re-envisioning" of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Neither has much bite.

American Alphabet by Heidi Cody.
American Alphabet by Heidi Cody.
Michael Hernandez de Luna's Viagra stamps. All the artists have lawyers.
Michael Hernandez de Luna's Viagra stamps. All the artists have lawyers.

Details

On display through April 2. 954-921-3274.
Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood

The third is Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, the legendary 1987 film by Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes, who uses Barbie dolls to tell the tragic story of the anorexic singer's rise and fall. The filmmaker neglected to get the rights to the Carpenter songs he used in this brilliantly subversive work, and so it has remained largely unseen for nearly two decades and is a fitting finale to the exhibition.

But it's the text panel for a video in the main gallery that really pulls Illegal Art's concerns into focus. It's for Jed Horovitz and Greg Hittelman's nearly hourlong 2003 video Willful Infringement, and it reads, in part: "Is copyright an instrument of censorship? Do newer copyright controls suppress the free speech of scientists, artists, and others? Does aggressive enforcement of copyright law inhibit artists today in ways that they weren't in the past?"

I'm not fully convinced that this show offers a convincing answer to any of these thorny questions. That it's willing even to raise them, however, is to its credit.

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