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'MIDDAY' by Adam Alessi at Smart Objects, Los Angeles

In a suite of oil and flashe paintings, Alessi depicts the archetype of the trickster and his various uncanny surrogates. If the project of all rational thought is to align internal subjective reality with the external objective, then the trickster’s main tactic is to confuse with unsettling ambiguity. Dolls, prosthetics, puppets, and masks make it uncertain whether Alessi’s subjects are living or inanimate, setting the trickster’s mischief in motion. Even the ringleader of chaos himself is hiding under a closely cropped iconic witch mask, only to be revealed dancing, holding mysterious white balls in a separate painting. 

The trickster’s sleight of hand continues as he creates a shadow puppet of a rabbit, a common trickster animal in folklore, with a stiff middle finger in the air to render the rabbit’s innocent ears. The trickster has private motives, holding the potential to harm if necessary, but with no guarantee. Like a game of Russian roulette, his evil is heightened by its proximity to play. In other canvases, the trickster sends witches, magic, and demons, to do his bidding. Symbols and colors repeat throughout the implying a series of coincidences that suddenly bear a fateful meaning. What is fleshy and real and what is cold and prosthetic is never quite clear. The only two seemingly human figures in the group are distorted by anamorphosis, putting into question their relationship to the tricker’s reality. 

Conspiracy theories frequently surface as comprehension tools during times of uncertainty and after traumatic events. When power is masked and realities are pliable, being tricked can be a matter of life or death. If matching internal and external realities is a cognitive tool of survival, we gain a provisional relief from “unknown-unknowns” when chance and accidents are relinquished to the “known-unknowns” of Murphy’s Law, fate, magic, or evil. However, if there is a man behind the curtain using subliminal cues to exploit psychology, the true terror lies in the uncertainty you’re not already an unwitting victim of trickery. 

– Marie Heilich

12.9.20 — 31.10.20

Smart Objects

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