Yesterday Was Yesterday. Tomorrow Is Ours. New Work by Cammi Climaco
Through May 30
A flat-screen video monitor displays the words "All of my dreams came true today!" This hyperbolic declaration appears in brightly colored handwritten script against a blank white field. The phrase fades out, only to be replaced with the equally enthusiastic: "All of my dreams came true yesterday!" Then: "All of my dreams came true the day before yesterday!" And so a pattern emerges, indicating all the narrator's dreams also came true three days ago, last week, last month, last year. While the first iteration is overblown, with each repetition meaning is further drained from these lines. Every word becomes suspect. "All"? "Dreams"? "Came true"? Even "my" is brought into question.
Indeed, it is highly probable that the first person declarative here is not meant to represent Cammi Climaco, the artist responsible for the piece. In the context of the rest of Climaco's show at Lump, the narrator of this work is more likely to be an adolescent girl, percolating with hormones, sugar and other chemical additives. This is the point of view of an unseen avatar that permeates Climaco's work, an ongoing investigation of a state of being that might be called impossible happiness. The title of the work described above is "The Dissolution of Happiness" (2007), a disarmingly simple video that maintains an equilibrium of sincerity and emptiness.
Yesterday was yesterday. Tomorrow is ours. is the title of the show. This aphoristic construction has the ring of a youth culture credo, one that casts off the heroes of old and embraces whatever is new and now. Mom and dad may have had their Beatles or Nirvana or Green Day—but we've got Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Indeed, a Jonas brother makes an appearance in this show, a visual circus that coalesces in six concise works. Climaco is consumed with the idea of happiness, a form of happiness inextricably paired with consumption—food, booze, pop culture, sex, indulgence, pleasure, desire, memory. Climaco's work has an implosive effect. She produces consumable objects that embody the image of consumption and desire.
Nick Jonas shows up in "Incurable Times" (2009), a mixed-media construction that includes a couple of Climaco's signature objects done in thickly glazed porcelain. One takes the form of an all-black soda can. The other is a generic snack package in metallic gold. These two objects are placed on a pale pink plank, with a Tiger Beat magazine opened to a dreamy centerfold of Nick, replete with fluffy hot-pink hearts. This found object activates Climaco's porcelain objects—without the mag they'd be inert, generalized forms.
"Dark Secret" (2009) is a congregation of porcelain bottles all done in a monochrome cream-colored glaze. The bottles look like a gathering of escapees from a Giorgio Morandi still life. They are placed on the floor, offset by a dark blue wall with some crudely spray-painted graffiti setting forth the cryptic: "Blue Devils #39." As with much of Climaco's work, there's no ready narrative or key to unlock the secrets contained in "Dark Secret." We are left with a stark visual impression and an onslaught of unfolding questions.
Perhaps "Dark Secret" suppresses a shameful crush on a sports figure—player No. 39. If that were the case, perhaps "Getting with the Hero" (2008) is a goofy tribute to a longed-for consummation. "Getting with the Hero" consists of a whimsical patch of grass fashioned out of thickly glazed ceramic. Small matte white flowers dot the green, and a Reddi-wip can floats atop the lumpy stalks. "Getting with the Hero" feels like a memorial of sorts—a sentimental marker in remembrance of a prone moment—one that may have involved sex, or intimacy, or both (and, apparently, whipped cream).
"Very, very much" (2009) consists of the word "creaming" spelled out in porcelain letters on the wall, embellished with multicolored porcelain butterflies. The letters resemble butter pushed through a butter press. This piece is a punning machine that churns out multiple meanings. The faux-butter letters meld with the butterflies and communicate a melty, buttery feeling. Butterflies become the butterflies in one's stomach. "Very, very much" reverberates with a happy teen briteness. As with Climaco's other works, the piece (and the word) refers back to itself, expresses itself reflexively as it appears to be made of itself. "Very, very much" feels almost like an advertisement. But the piece remains open, mysterious, spinning out on puns that vibrate between a high-fat dairy byproduct and a not-so-covert eroticism.
Perhaps the most inscrutable piece in the show is "Rat Convention" (2009), a headache-producing little moment in which a rat made of baked dough is set in front of a pulsing strobe light, set off in a dark corner of the gallery's back room. The piece is both sculpture and theater, which is how much of Climaco's work can be seen. A possible way to view this work is with the thought that a "rat" can be defined as a person who's betrayed us. A "Rat Convention," therefore, might possibly be what you'd call a gathering of jerky guys.
Now perhaps that's nowhere near the mark, but if Climaco wanted literal readings she would not present the work she does. The works in Yesterday was yesterday function as a series of triggers, designed to restimulate conscious and unconscious associations, fictions that interface with reality, or at least a kind of reality in which endless happiness and other fantasies find concrete form in bright, cheerful objects that turn out to be more complex than they initially seem.