Anthony Discenza: Everything Will Probably Turn Out OK

With the month-long string of performances mostly behind me, I am trying to work my way through my backlog of reviews. Today we at CatSynth present a recent exhibition by artist Anthony Discenza at Catherine Clark Gallery entitled Everything Will probably Work Out OK. That phrase has become a bit of a mantra since the exhibit, and I keep the original card on my desk, reminding myself as I work on my music or other projects that “everything will probably work out ok.” It might not, but it probably will.  Additionally, the card, with simple black lettering on a white background, appeals to my interest in text-based art – indeed, the relationship between text and image was a central theme of the exhibition.

I particularly liked his series of “street signs”, which featured cryptic and humorous messages in the familiar rectangular shape and sans-serif type of signs used in American cities.

[Anthony Discenza, KITTENS and DIRTIER, 2009.  Photographs courtesy of Catherine Clark Gallery.  Click to enlarge.]

In addition to the gallery presentation, several of the signs were posted on streets (prior to the exhibition). In the example presented here, A LAPSE INTO THE ROMANTIC, one can see how the signs really fit the part in terms of scale, design, layout and type.

[Anthony Discenza, Lapse into the Romantic, 2007.  Photo courtesy of Catherine Clark Gallery.  Click to enlarge.]

With just a peripheral glance one could easily assume this is just another sign explaining some parking or traffic rule. A selection of the street signs were also featured in the exhibition catalogue.

Another prominent series featured plays on the “Hollywood elevator pitch”, where someone attempts to summarize their idea as “A meets B”. In Sometimes a Great Notion (Part 1). Discenza presents a wall of absurd pairings drawing from pop culture, literature, history and other sources.  Examples include “It’s M.C. Escher meets Z. Z. Top”, “It’s Le Corbusier meets Chuck Norris”, “It’s Star Trek: The Next Generation meets The Indigo Girls”, and “It’s Twitter meets SARS”. You can see a full version of the text from the piece here. He also has some extended chains as light boxes:

[Anthony Discenza, Teaser #1, 2009. Photo courtesy of Catherine Clark Gallery. Click to enlarge.]

In addition to the visual pieces, there was also an audio installation Untitled (The Effect). In a dark room with low lighting, a disembodied female voice narrates a text describing visuals or instructions that seem disjoint but also seem to flow naturally. The text is based on fragments gathered by searching for a specific phrase on Google.

Although this quote from the press release seems to most describe the audio work, it could easily apply to the visual text-based pieces as well:

I’m very interested in text—in part because I’ve always drawn so much inspiration from literature—and specifically for the way that text can act as a kind of score, enticing the mind to construct things that don’t exist anywhere else. I’m curious about that peculiar fluidity of something experienced primarily in the imagination, and I’m fascinated by the way a small fragment of something—maybe only a few sentences, or even just a phrase—can, under the right conditions, conjure an entire narrative.

Discenza is also known for his past work which features meticulously edited and constructed video work. The exhibition does include one piece Charlton Heston: The Future Has Already Been Written in which he intersperses several Charlton Heston films on a frame-by-frame basis. It takes a moment to get used to seeing the rapidly changing images, but once one’s eyes and brain adjust, scenes and transitions become clearer (and I quickly recognized Planet of the Apes).