Saturday, June 30, 2007

Conversation 4: Jillian McDonald/Mark Lee Morris

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
June 29 - August 25, 2007

I'm excited to report on Canadian-turned-New Yorker Jillian McDonald's solo show "Me and Billy Bob" at the SF Arts Commission Gallery. McDonald is a rare find, a funny, accessible and highly conceptual media artist who doesn't talk down to her audience. In video and web works dating from 2003 to the present, she investigates the social compulsion to invest celebrities with feelings of false intimacy, noting that the increasing disconnection we feel from our families and communities is prompting us to inappropriately displace our relationships elsewhere.

McDonald composites herself into scenes from Billy Bob Thornton's films, responding passionately to his gentle attentions. She draws his famous tattoos onto her own body in pen and ink, later realizing that only temporary tattoos of his name can adequately express her love. Upon hearing of Billy Bob's 2004 plastic surgery, she covers her face in temporary tattoos in mourning and protest. Finally, impatient with her beloved, she strays into the arms of rivals including Johnny Depp, Vincent Gallo and her paramour's ex-wife, Angelina Jolie.

The "Conversation" exhibition series juxtaposes a Bay Area artist with an artist from elsewhere, highlighting common interests and threads in their work. San Franciscan Mark Lee Morris presents "Hamartia," a TV serial melodrama in which he plays all the parts, available on YouTube and on view/in production in the Arts Commission window display at 155 Grove Street. His process is similar to that of Kara Hearn or Desiree Holman, acting out on lifelong obsessions by inhabiting each player in a series of original yet archetypical scenarios. Over the course of the exhibition, Morris will create several episodes of "Hamartia," introducing several characters and revealing other facets of his intimate relationship to television.

In her most recent work, McDonald's obsession has turned from movie stars toward horror films, and she's embarking on several new projects intended to tease out the very real social fears embedded in shock-and-slash narratives. My own affection for the critically-sharp fantasies of John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, George Romero and their Japanese counterparts Naoyuki Tomomatsu, Takashi Miike, Tetsuro Takeuchi, Kinji Fukasaku et al being profound, this is a direction I deeply approve of. Keep an eye on Jillian McDonald, she is just getting going.

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