Desire Obtain Cherish, #sideffects, The McLoughlin Gallery

For us at CatSynth, the summer is usually a time of intense musical focus, and this one more so than most. While I keep up with the visual arts as best I can during these periods, it often takes something strong and unusual to get my attention for these pages. #sideffects, the solo exhibition by Desire Obtain Cherish (DOC) at The McLoughlin Gallery, is one such show.

DOC - Blood Sugar High

The cover piece of the exhibition, shown above, along with the title itself, gives the viewer an immediate sense of what the show is about. The piece combines several banal and commercial elements, a store mannequin stuffed inside a replica of a familiar peppermint candy. These materials fit perfectly with DOC’s use of commonplace materials and tropes, but they are also provocative, pointing out the association of the female figure (particularly Asian female figures) with a commoditized “sweetness” and sense of possession. Clearly, we should expect to have our sensibilities tweaked a little bit as we progress through the exhibition. At the same time, the title with its hashtag and the written style tell us that along with the art, we will be subject to a bit of the artist’s written opinion, whether we want to or not. Indeed, the gallery layout for the show juxtaposes groups of similar art pieces with written thoughts from the artist, titled with a hashtag, an organization I found fun and creative.

The entrance to the exhibition is dominated by a piece featuring a “red carpet”, which was particularly amusing for the opening.

DOC #sideffects opening reception
[Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]

The cartoon hands at the end of the carpet are sweeping something in some direction, but it’s not clear if it’s the carpet or the gold bricks that lie beyond it. The gold bricks, which were simultaneously part of the larger installation and individual works in their own right, bore DOC’s official designer monogram, if one imagined such a thing existed outside the confines of an art gallery.

Desire Obtain Cherish gold bricks

The resemblance to certain well-known designers’ monograms is clearly not a coincidence. Indeed, the monograms of actual well-known designers featured prominently in the series Designer Drugs:

DOC Designer Drugs, single set
[Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]

A sardonic and somewhat dark sense of humor permeates much of the work, with an emphasis on twisting commercial or pop-culture references. There was a series of crucifixes made from flavored chocolate bars emblazoned with the brand-name “Heresy”. (Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the artworks, they were not made of real chocolate). The theme was most strongly present in the series of “pill portraits” featuring iconic images of celebrities who died from drug overdoses, assembled meticulously from thousands of individually wrapped pills. The subjects range from movie legends like Judy Garland as Dorothy to artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat.

DOC - Judy's Purple Poppies
[Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]

Despite his open ridicule of commercial and celebrity culture, Desire Obtain Cherish – whose real name is Jonathan Paul and was refreshingly down-to-earth when talking with visitors to the opening – is not without humility about his own role as an artistic provocateur and his history in Los Angeles street art. Indeed, one of the most fun parts of the opening was an installation in which visitors were invited to grab hold of a paintball gun and shoot a hanging figure directly mocking street art heroes including Banksy.

DOC paintpall street art installation

I did of course try my hand at the gun, which is quite an experience for those of us not immersed in so-called “gun culture.” It did splatter not only on the figure and the surroundings, but some bits rebounded back out into the main gallery dangerously close to myself as well as innocent bystanders.

It should also be noted that Desire Obtain Cherish, who was trained at the Parson’s School of Design, still retains his knowledge of art history and practice even as he openly rebells against it. This was particularly noticeable in his riff on Dali’s famous “melting clock” piece. In a contemporary play on the original piece’s title, DOC’s is called “Short Term Memory.”

DOC - Short Term Memory

Overall, this was a strong show, and a coup for a gallery that I have been following since its inception about two and a half years ago.

Desire Obtain Cherish, #sideeffects, will be on display at The McLoughlin Gallery through August 31. If you are in San Francisco this week, I strongly recommend checking it out.