Here's a question: What would it look like to mount an exhibition whose organizing principle was the idea of the non sequitur? Not a show whose thematic current contained the occasional chance element, but one that took the idea of disconnection as its very point of embarkation? Would the result be a disconnected show of isolated works? Or would the artists' singular interpretations reinforce one another, coalescing into an entropic aesthetic that is greater than the sum of its parts?
The results are on view in Bard Girls Can Fly, a lively group exhibition organized by Matt Strauss that opened last Saturday at White Flag Projects. The show features a roster of rising stars and established artists from Europe and the United States, whose treatment of the non sequitur is as varied as its artists are geography diverse.
On view in the gallery's rear alcove is the show's standout piece, Amelie von Wulffen's video At the Cool Table. Von Wulffen has recently been making wickedly witty paintings of debauched fruits and vegetables, but here the German artist has created a series of drawings depicting the random connections that comprise her creative process – watching a bit of Internet porn, which leads to Googling herself, which leads to fantasizing about her sister's success, which leads to worrying about her own position as a middle-aged female artist, all of which turns into, well, At the Cool Table, her wildly entertaining, funny and quietly tragic self-portrait.
Von Wulffen's video contrasts mightily with two Robert Longo studies in ink and charcoal. Created in the style, alternately, of abstract expressionists Joan Mitchell and Franz Kline, Longo's small works on vellum are simply gorgeous, their barely contained intensity sharpened by their diminutive dimensions. Striking though these work are, Mitchell and Kline have influenced generations of painters, and other than the random (I suppose) creative process often associated with abstract expressionism, these works seem somehow shoehorned into the show.
That is certainly not true of Michael Dean's magnificent not titled/(untitled) finger, a surrealistic take on the still life tradition that employs a generalized domestic scene to exhibit a small sculpture of black tongues, one of which sprouts a downward pointing finger. The result is both deeply familiar and utterly foreign – a sort of minimalist meeting between David Lynch and Henri Matisse.
A much more literal interpretation comes by way of Phillip Zach, a young German artist with cosmic randomness on the brain. His series of pitted foam prints, which are strewn across the gallery's floors and walls, alternate between extraterrestrial images from the Mars Rover, microscopic images of bacterial colonies, and, disappointingly, the obligatory piece of unadorned, barely-pitted foam that simply rests on the floor – but nevertheless required an intern to stand sentry throughout opening night.
So, does Bard Girls Can Fly answer its central question? In part, yes. The engaging show enables the works to play off of one another to great effect, but judging by the poor girl who spent the evening shifting from foot to foot, plenty of questions remain.