In on the Art Joke: Scott Reeder at 356 Mission

by Alicia Eler on January 31, 2014

Scott Reeder, "Book Titles (Fiction and Non Fiction)" 2014. All photographs by the author for Hyperallergic.

Scott Reeder, “Book Titles (Fiction and Non Fiction)” 2014. (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — In Scott Reeder’s latest show, he’s made sure to drop in an almost unnoticeable banana that, upon recognition of the fruit, appears as just another prop in an alternate parody universe. Reeder’s work goes deeper because the jokes offer a one-two punch rather than a sardonic poking-fun-at, which just comes off as ironic. But does it?

Installed in the sprawling 356 Mission space is part of the set from the artist’s production MOON DUST — monochromatic modular pop-up rooms that look like a combination of a Jetson’s futuristic home and 70’s pods from Clockwork Orange. Placed within these rooms one finds Reeder’s various large-scale paintings that offer textual one-liners or lines of paint. When encountering one of these paintings, are we laughing at ourselves or the joke that Reeder is making about the art world?

Set from Scott Reeder's production MOON DUST, including the painting "Untitled (Three Letter Band Names" 2014

Set from Scott Reeder’s production MOON DUST, including the painting “Untitled (Three Letter Band Names)” 2014

Take one of Scott Reeder’s smoking banana paintings, for example, in which a banana is painted onto a gray background, quietly smoking a cigarette, which was a part of the exhibition A Study in Midwestern Appropriation. This sort of tongue-in-cheek art humor is par for the course, of course, like a niche inside joke between friends. In Reeder’s exhibition in Los Angeles, there’s a banana made of wood that matches the bowl it sits in. Would Reeder ever paint a still life of this wooden banana in a bowl? If he did, would it be trompe l’œil, and not just a flat painting without any pictorial space?

Scott Reeder, row of "Untitled" paintings (2014)

Scott Reeder, row of “Untitled” paintings (2014)

That’s enough pontificating and attempts at deep thinking — let’s just get to the official works of art in this exhibition. “Book Titles (Fiction and Non Fiction)” (2014), is exactly what it sounds like. Visible through the circular cut-out space of a wall that separates a completely purple-themed room from the set of his production MOON DUST, this bright orange painting offers a list of ideas for fiction and non-fiction book title ideas, such as “Codependent Computers.”  Another painting entitled “More Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen” (2014) suggests titles such as “Celebrate the Rich.” Would that be an exhibition celebrating the 1%, critiquing the wealthy who buy art, or perhaps just another insider joke about the art market? Either way, this one-liner provides solace for those annoyed with the art world, or art-making in general. Alternately, a series of works all titled Untitled (2014) are content to just experiment with shades of color and pattern rather than mess with text. Either way, the joke’s on the viewer who tries to gain something deeper from this surface humor or use of paint.

Scott Reeder, "Untitled" (2014). Spray enamel on enamel on canvas.

Scott Reeder, “Untitled” (2014). Spray enamel on enamel on canvas.

Scott Reeder, "More Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I've Seen" 2014

Scott Reeder, “More Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen” (2014)

Scott Reeder, "Untitled" (2014)

Scott Reeder, “Untitled” (2014)

Scott Reeder, "Band Names" (2014)

Scott Reeder, “Band Names” (2014)

Scott Reeder continues at 356 Mission (356 S. Mission Rd., Los Angeles) through March 16.

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Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • Daniel Luna

    Who will win the genre of institutional critique Reeder or Powhida?

    Is there enough room in the market for two?

    May the best man critique harder!

  • Kate Rhoades

    I think this show looks good, but the review was not my jam.

    I just reviewed the review.

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