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The curatorial theme of this summer group show explores aspects of coming of age, a defining moment for adolescents worldwide from the 1950s—when the term “teenager” was first used—until the present. The exhibition presents narratives that express both what today’s youth are going through as well as nostalgia for older rites and traditions. Each work looks at one or several themes that are characteristic of this moment, when unsure feelings struggle for a sense of clarity, when a person’s identity slowly takes shape. The works also examine teenagers’ real life or spiritual experiments as they aspire to answer existential questions.
Drug use and secret societies, violence and anarchy, rejection of society and rebellion against parents are all intimately examined, as are issues with friendship and sexuality (gay or straight), youth sports culture, video and role-playing games, amusement parks, nationalism and identity, comics, fantasy and science fiction, death metal and punk rock, hardcore electronic music, and more.
Adriaan van der Ploeg’s straightforward color photographs portray teenage gamers—mostly adolescent boys—whose brightly lit, often-sullen faces fill the frame. As contemporary video games heavily employ use of the avatar, it is disconcerting to see the boys “unmasked” in the light of a camera.
In his work Without Sun, Brody Condon montages video clips of teens experiencing the legal psychedelic drug Salvia divinorum, the sounds and images overlapping. The clips, posted to YouTube and available worldwide, demonstrate the gap between lived experience of transcendental aims with its representation.
In Avelino Sala’s Fuego Camina Conmigo, a young man dribbles an enflamed soccer ball. Youth sports often encourage camaraderie, but this video metaphorically suggests that soccer can also fervently and sharply divide not only school children but also cities and even entire countries.
In her video series Brethren of the Stone, Jen Liu’s characters sing the lyrics, translated into a Latin aria, to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and films a marching band performing Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” all while creatures dressed as plantlike beasts conduct bewildering rituals. The fantastical imagery in her mixed-media work in watercolor and collage could have appeared on a prog-rock gatefold album cover in the 1970s.