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Critics’ Picks: Glen Baldridge

By Michael Wilson

May 28, 2009

THE END’S NOT NEAR IT’S HERE. The doomy announcement is picked out from a glittering blue ground in what look at first like snowflakes or starbursts but turn out on closer inspection to represent bullet holes, their stylized design borrowed from a hot-rod decal. The fusion of dark humor, cheesy glamour, and pop-cultural reference (the slogan comes from an OC episode title) that distinguishes Glen Baldridge’s slick, multilayered print recurs throughout his third solo show at the gallery. More sinister yet is “Lucky Sevens,” 2009, a series of silk-screened image of coffins appropriated from a catalog found in the artist’s apartment, a former casket factory. Replicating the scratch-off surface applied to lottery tickets, Baldridge further aestheticizes an already ornate subject and casts human mortality as a merciless game of chance with an inescapable culmination.

A sardonically playful spirit crops up again in Jenga, 2009, in which the coffee-table test of balance appears to have been the victim of an arson attempt. The game’s wooden blocks, assembled into a precarious tower atop a narrow pedestal, have been lightly but determinedly singed, suggesting that an obvious instability on one front might function only to provoke more determined assaults on others. Coating the gallery’s front window is an image of a sunset, printed on perforated vinyl so that it veils the space when seen from the street but remains invisible to viewers looking out. It’s a neat allegory of our ability to accept, intellectually, the inevitability of death while remaining in emotional denial.

— Michael Wilson