Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Say Yes!

Oh I missed the show! I wish I could have been there—Susan O'Malley at Ping Pong Gallery, SF. But such is life. And, evidently, not being there was just where I needed to be.

Being here now, I can tell you it made me happy (Be Happy Now) to discover someone else out there thinks these pithy, optimistic statements are worthy of re-casting as Art On The Walls. I would have loved to have been there feeling the vibe, like euphoria, bouncing off the walls and across the room, but online is the Next Best Thing!

An artist out of San Jose, Susan O'Malley's work is whimsical and wry, a bit like Miranda July who she's worked with, so the connection is deeper than name-dropping. She likes these inspirational statements for the effectiveness of their direct command and how succinctly they boost the spirits. These slogans are the avant guard of a positivist, aggressively optimistic can-do attitude that is distinctly American. Have A Nice Day and that's an order.
Don't get me wrong, the work is completely sincere as is, most likely, the wish behind every off-hand, Take Care!

O'Malley's posters are a direct descendant of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's peace works. Social engagement through art. Lifting our sights to a higher order. Anything is possible with the right attitude. I believe it. I know it. Art Saves.

These affirmations recall Barbara Kruger's work, but they come with less bite. It may be a generational thing. This is the Obama era after all.

There's something absolutely reassuring to be held by the authority of conviction that stands behind these words. Don't worry. We're All In This Together.

Togetherness is a running theme in her work—literally, running around her neighborhood, and also engaging with her audience, or extending an art-hand to the community. O'Malley takes a gentle, fanciful approach to social engagement. In conjunction with these limited edition inspirational posters, she's got buttons for sale or barter. You can wear your art/slogan on your lapel—right next to your Imagine peace button.

Yes, yes we can.

Also on her website, I highly recommend seeing her interact with her neighborhood in this low-key video, A few yards in San Jose. With simple gestures she makes the mundane a lot more interesting. For further inspiration and instruction there's also her how-to video, Ways to be an artist in residence. Believe me—It Will Be More Beautiful Than You Could Ever Imagine.

Kruger image courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery.