to jan. 6, 2007

In “Consume,” curator Angela Jerardi presents five artists having a bit of fun with the world of personal obsession, commodified desire, and slick, prepackaged experiences. Of course, “slick” isn’t the first word that jumps to mind when contemplating these works; fit and finish throughout the show are decidedly scruffy. For example, Jessie Lehson’s Lick (pictured), a constellation of drooping, brittle balloons of blown sugar hanging from monofilament at eye level, do succeed in looking like creepy sacs of flesh. But their strangeness fades a bit when one looks up and notices that each clear thread has been unceremoniously tacked to the ceiling with a staple gun. In a similar fashion, Heidi Neff almost persuades the viewer with her dutiful, page-by-page rendering of a porno mag—Hustler Extreme Sex Volume 78. And though she claims to intend for her monoprints to sit between grotesque exploitation and high-art elegance, her actual drawing style looks hurried and perfunctory, making use of big loose passages of cross-hatching and uninflected contours—more like quickie comic-book doodling than high art. Bits of furniture hastily spray-painted with flat black enamel, ramshackle cubicles improvised out of torn canvas and bits of wood for housing video monitors—all of this makes the show feel like a goofy art student romp. Granted, conceptual art is often all about the idea—execution need rise only far enough to communicate the artist’s intent. But here that intent is to blur boundaries and defamiliarize the viewer with their own desires—and that’s a delicate operation. Ultimately, shoddy presentation threatens to short-circuit works that are otherwise pretty clever. “Consume” is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. Free. (202) 315-1305. (Jeffry Cudlin)