Neil Wax at Gallery Brown

Every so often one stumbles upon something in the art world that acts like an aesthetic Wasabi. Stopping in at Gallery Brown off 3rd Street the other morning initiated such a moment of palette cleansing recently. Installed in the sunny windows of the gallery were plastic containers, in groupings of two and three, of varying shapes and colors. The original labels of these products had been removed and artfully replaced by hand cut vinyl logos featuring words like “Self Pity,” Blame,” and “Angst.” It made for an arresting sight laced with humor and thought.

Neil Wax, Various examples, Hand cut vinyl on plastic bottles
Courtesy Gallery Brown

The work is by an artist named Neil Wax who, by scanning both the gallery’s and the artist’s own web site, has been accumulating quite a collection of these doppelgangers of dark emotion. The containers themselves are readily identifiable as laundry detergent, window cleaner, shampoo and conditioner, the type seen and offered in dizzying quantity at 99 cent stores. This familiarity is essential to the pleasure of the body of work. It’s an artful game of bait and switch with the product labeling now identifying the contents as “Inner Turmoil.” The colors are also cheery and optimistic in direct contrast to the linguistic doom.

Neil Wax, Various examples, Hand cut vinyl on plastic bottles
Courtesy Gallery Brown

The primary response of discovery and wit doesn’t fade either. The resonance is twofold. Upon further contemplation, the contents of these “goods” are all extremely negative. Not at all the type of product that an emotionally needy demographic might rush out and purchase. Perhaps these products are meant for the vengeful who might wash their room mate’s t-shirt in a delicate cycle of “Blame.” Suffice it to say the narrative possibilities are intriguing and rich.

Neil Wax, Various examples, Hand cut vinyl on plastic bottles
Courtesy Gallery Brown

Lastly what earns respect is a near pitch perfect execution. The graphic design in evidence coupled with the shiny veneer of the vinyl appliques fits the medium and the message. The message may be subversive but the execution is corporate.

Gallery Brown, 140 S Orlando Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 323-651-1956

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, March 19th, 2013

 

also by Mario M. Muller

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