What it means to be incite-ful

Walnut Tabby (Girl), Ed Wicklander, 2008
Carved walnut, horse tail hair, ivory nut, enamel paint and steel base
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

Why has there been a carved wooden cat at Greg Kucera Gallery for the last four months? Has anyone else been scratching their head over this? Nobody talks about it. She just sits there, or lays there really, floating on a steel cradle. I feel babied with the innocuousness of cat art and the frustration has been building inside me for several months. Isn't this "low art"? What metaphorical height could this flying cat possibly be achieving. Is that okay to like it? Should I like it because I don't like it?

I don't have a segue here, but you'll find the hook later. Jack Daws is also exhibiting at Kucera this month in the Made in USA show. Daws is direct, the kind of artist that doesn't do well with segues. And if you don't know Jack Daws, let me run you up to speed on the greatest hits - an electrified playpen, copper plated gold pennies and a piƱata of the Alamo filled with Chiclets and drywall screws. Negotiating his shows is a dangerous path as he weakens the spectral barrier that protects his audience from the work. You might be swindled or shocked (literally), but nobody walks away with an unscratched head.

Better You Than Me, Jack Daws, 2007
.45 caliber pistol, hollow points, enamel, plastic plug from toy gun
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

Here's Daws' new target: artworld. Not such a new target really, but his use of non-traditional art materials and the ability to sell political work (let alone the ability to sell counterfeit currency and drugs) to a reserved northwest city that loves its cat art, attacks much of what I have assumed about the art market. Now it seems his cuts are getting closer and closer to the jugular. Daws normally targets you, the viewer; now he's after himself or any other artist who gets in the way of a punchline.

Life on the Farm (Butterfield), Jack Daws, 2010
photocopy, 48 x 36 inches, Edition of 5
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

Here's the hook. Daws and cat art go together; for the same reason you thought they would never go together. Daws is attacking the kitsch in the same show as kitsch. Kucera and his artists have the courage to be critiqued and I hope this point is not lost. It's a rare thing to see work exhibited along side a protagonist at a for-profit venture. It's outright uncanny for art to be its own protagonist at a for-profit venture. But that's just what he's doing by mocking the for-profit world with a for-profit print.

Life on the Farm (Heizer), Jack Daws, 2010
photocopy, 48 x 36 inches, Edition of 5
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery


High art in a high art gallery is being attacked with low-culture cursewords and low-brow humor in a comic strip. This deserves applause. My only complaint is that the three part series could just as easily been split up and placed directly along side Wicklander's wooden cats or Calderon's lead tortoise, instead of on its own wall. I would give away a belt buckle for that kind of courage.

untitled (tortoise), Mark Calderon, 2010
cast lead, 4 x 10 x 9 inches, Edition of 7
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery