At Zeitgeist, work by two artists addresses the weirdness of suburbia 

Same As It Ever Was

Same As It Ever Was

The current exhibit at Zeitgeist combines three kinds of work — a piece by Justin Plakas, and two very different projects by Jessica Wohl — that together create a dialogue about the clandestine nature of suburban life.

Wohl completed her MFA studies at The University of Georgia in 2010, and she's currently teaching drawing and painting at The University of the South in Sewanee. At Zeitgeist she's showing two bodies of work, Suburbia and Thread Drawings. Wohl told the Scene that she's attracted to the tension between the inside and the outside, and the way that houses can function as a mask for what is happening within.

Suburbia is a series of meticulously rendered pen drawings of a smiling family posing outside a suburban McMansion, as if getting a portrait taken at JCPenney. The pictures are unnervingly normal, but small details are there to be discovered, like a Where's Waldo drawing of American suburban life. Some details are spooky, others hilarious. A Confederate flag hangs on the inside of a window, dogs are having sex in the top of a tree, a man peers out from behind binoculars inside a hedge, Chihuahuas dressed up like children stare out from behind berets.

Though stylistically very different, the works in Thread Drawings are thematically linked to Suburbia. Wohl has altered a collection of found photographs by stitching thread through certain portions. As the title suggests, the thread in these pieces mimics pencil lines or paint brushstrokes rather than cross-stitched embroidery. Stitching through the photos objectifies them, calling to mind African fetishes that are wrapped in fabric as a form of prayer. The thread binds the people to their photographs in an eerie way, because there is no commentary to the embroidery, no pictures made with the threads — just plain stitchwork that points only to its repetitive, meticulous nature. It's a subtle way of replacing the original intention of the photograph with negative space, and the idea of absence and the sad way that old photographs hold onto memories like obsessions, long after its subjects have grown or died.

In between Wohl's two projects is Plakas' "Lullaby," a video of a spotlighted man in a shaggy hunting suit who tap dances while singing Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." The video is slowed down so dramatically that the vocals are almost too deep to comprehend, necessitating subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The slow speed also makes the movement disarmingly ominous and inhuman. It's a spooky piece that recalls everything from African tribal rituals to the scene in Say Anything ... in which Lloyd Dobler serenades Diane Court while holding a boom box over his head.



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