‘Exchange’ Rate

From social-media satire to musical cacti, gallerist Amanda Harris has curated an otherwordly experience

Don’t look for obvious connections between the works featured in Exchange. There is no binding theme or design behind the assembly of artists—Adrienne Adar, Louis Cannizzaro, Sandra Chevrier, Sara Lytle, Septerhed and XVALA—on display through August 30 at Amanda Harris Gallery of Contemporary Art. As Harris admits, Exchange is simply a reflection of her own current artistic interests.

“I really wanted it to be artists whose work I love, who I believe in,” Harris says. “Naturally, their work informs each other.”

Indeed, despite the seemingly random grouping, there is a serendipitous figurative dialogue between the works on display. Covering a broad range of styles and media that are only loosely gathered under the umbrella of contemporary art, the works in Exchange range from the slogan-y serigraphs of street artist Septerhed—which seem to be prime fodder for Tumblr memes or Threadless T-shirts—to the haunting, comic book collage-paint hybrids by Chevrier.

One of the most prominent contributors to Exchange is XVALA, the guerilla artist behind the “Fear Google” sticker campaign that started making the rounds in Silicon Valley in 2010. Here, his “GOLD” series (numbered “2” through “4”; No. 1 is in XVALA’s personal collection) of canvases feature the “Fear Google” motif repeated beneath layers of stenciled Tron characters and screen captures from Avengers cartoons.

His other works focus on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. A vaguely phallic, blue wire hanger called “Mark Zuckerberg’s Not Very Well-Hung Hanger”—allegedly recovered from the Facebook creator’s trash—is a commentary on the loss of privacy in the Internet Age. “Revenge, Regret, Remorse, Zuckerberg” is a large, manic painting depicting three robots surrounding (haunting?) a creature that could be interpreted as the Facebook creator.

XVALA—despite what one might gather from the “Fear Google” campaign and his Facebook jabs—is no technophobe. He actually uses technology directly to create his work, whether Instagramming stills from animated series or using Google’s search to create sculptures. XVALA says the “Fear Google” campaign was meant to be a “humorous reaction to technology,” not a serious manifesto.

“I want to help people improve their surroundings,” says the man whose email handle identifies him merely as “computer user,” “So I try to put good information into all my art.”

Across the room from XVALA’s ruminations on post-privacy are Lytle’s massive canvases, which explode with exuberance. Each 5-foot-tall, mixed- media piece features variations on the manic, jack-in-the-box-like characters she calls “crowfolk,” rendered in splashes of black paint and metallic splatters against vivid, almost garish backgrounds. One in particular, “Show Crow,” has an appropriately gaudy Las Vegas flavor.

Lytle says the creation of crowfolk happened spontaneously. “A lot of the excitement in the work is me not knowing where a piece will go,” she says.

Possibly the most interesting piece in Exchange—gauging by the amount of attention it received at the opening reception—is Adar’s “Golden Barrel,” a potted cactus fitted with a custom microphone that’s connected to a miniature amplifier, just one example of her “Sonic Succulent” series. By flicking the plant’s spines, one can effectively “play” the cactus like a percussion instrument. Adar—who was Harris’ roommate at Brandeis University—says that when someone plucks it, they’re “hearing the cactus’ point of view.”

“You’re not supposed to touch cactus, and you’re not supposed to touch art,” Adar says, “But the only way to experience the piece is to interact with it.”

If nothing else, Exchange is a compelling snapshot of a diverse set of artists worth watching.

Exchange at Amanda Harris Gallery

In Soho Lofts, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Suite 150, 5-8 p.m. Thu-Fri through Aug. 30, AmandaHarrisGallery.com.

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