Ken Fandell at Donald Young Gallery

by Robin Dluzen

A seizure warning is posted on the door to multidisciplinary artist, Ken Fandell’s new

Seizure warning posted at Donald Young Gallery entrance to Ken Fandell's exhibition.

exhibition of video and sound work at the Michigan Avenue, Donald Young Gallery. The tiny spaced housed the artist and visitors during opening reception of SQUARES AND CIRCLES AND SEX AND STARDUST, Friday, February 26, 2010. The projection of this 14 minute, strobe-ing video on the entirety of the gallery’s north wall, accompanied by a heavy, thudding sound track is a perfect example of experiential, aesthetically sophisticated combination of sound and animation.

The imagery in Fandell’s video ranges from hand drawings and photos of the artist’s bathroom floor, to circular industrial interiors and plates of salad. Humor is evident in Fandell’s work, but exists less as subject/content and more as a marginal element of his toolbox that contributes to a complex reading of these non-narrative visual components. The publicized photos of the artist’s mouthful of salad is a fragment of a larger segment of the video in which a close up of Fandell’s mouth eats a small plate of fresh looking greens. Instead of obvious, cliché


mastication shots, the plate is swiftly cleared, and fairly discretely consumed. This salad imagery, along with footage throughout the work, runs backward and forward, pushing and pulling the viewer along with it.

Of course, there is nothing extraordinary about eating a salad, and this triviality is represented in a dramatic fashion. The pounding soundtrack generated from various rock anthems builds momentum and suspense that coincide with zooming out or in with the imagery. The momentum builds to a climax, when the symbol sounds crash and the images on the screen snap to an inversion of themselves, either revealing the subject more clearly for what it is, or making it into a darker, gloomier/more sinister version of itself. But again, how sinister can a salad get?

The answer lies in the accompanying catalog; after witnessing both the playful irony and the antithetical grandness, I came upon the printed matter, which identifies the content employed in the video. Still photos of the source material are displayed on the


right page of the open book, while single, handwritten phrases are on the left; the book explains that the dramatic flame imagery from the video is from the artist’s home fireplace, and that the suspiciously domestic looking tiling is in fact his bathroom floor. The sweetness of the printed matter’s presentation, and Fandell’s generous display of the imagery’s personal origins reinforce the notion that the video’s content isn’t solely the irony, but something with more complex meaning.

What needs to be made clear here is that this is no low-tech viral video of random images and pulsating sound; Fandell’s SQUARES AND CIRCLES AND SEX AND STARDUST is slick, seamless and aesthetically impeccable. It is well composed, psychedelically colored, and projected wall-size in such a way that viewers stand with their backs to the opposite wall in order to not be consumed by it. However, this consumption happens regardless of one’s distance from it, and when it happens, it is a very good thing.

SQUARES AND CIRCLES AND SEX AND STARDUST is an exhibition that will be running in concordance with an exhibition of parallel works, Revolved Rorschachs, at Tony Wight Gallery in Chicago’s West Loop this March.

Donald Young Gallery is located at 224 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 266, Chicago.