• Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua, Bragging Rights: The Largest Bowie Knife Ever Made – Elwyn Palmerton

    Date posted: July 3, 2006 Author: jolanta
    The title alone, "Bragging Rights: The Largest Bowie Knife Ever Made" efficiently presents the exhibition?s various themes by invoking the cheesiness of an American roadside attraction?s typical boast.

    Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua, Bragging Rights: The Largest Bowie Knife Ever Made

    Elwyn Palmerton

    Michael St. John, In a daze 'cause I found god, 2003. Plaster, spraypaint on wood, atlas, collage, pencil, paper, tape on canvas, pom-poms and enamel on wood, 98 x 96". Images courtesy of Cynthia Broan Gallery, New York
    Michael St. John, In a daze ’cause I found god, 2003. Plaster, spraypaint on wood, atlas, collage, pencil, paper, tape on canvas, pom-poms and enamel on wood, 98 x 96″. Images courtesy of Cynthia Broan Gallery, New York

    The title alone, "Bragging Rights: The Largest Bowie Knife Ever Made" efficiently presents the exhibition’s various themes by invoking the cheesiness of an American roadside attraction’s typical boast. The titular knife of Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua’s installation is 120 feet long, certainly qualifying bragging rights. Starting with a handle made out of a police motor scooter and continuing on in a ramshackle collection of everything and the kitchen sink, the installation at Brooklyn’s Jack the Pelican includes: hexagonal fencing, red foam drops of blood, blenders, roughly-assembled plexus vitrines, a refrigerator, a canoe, a Rachael Harrison-esque broken iceberg, two TVs, real tomatoes, tons of hot glue, paint and a zillion 99-cent store items like straws and skewers. The piece emits aggressive, broken-robot noises from its various devices (a Weed-Whacker, blenders, guitar pedals), which are activated in a pattern that seems both random and vaguely cyclical.

    Scrawled intermittently all over the installation are random facts and headlines such as "1913 Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring opens to Riots." The combination of grotesquerie and its delirious take on americana calls to mind William Burroughs and resembles a bad acid-trip through a post-apocalyptic funhouse. It’s quintessential "boy art;" various bird’s nest accumulations of hot-glued detritus (dowels, foam, etc.) resembling heaps of rotting compost or flesh are a little too Dungeons & Dragons goth in places–as are the cartoony severed limbs–and a video of a man using a Bowie knife to pick red Gummy Bears out of his teeth is simply excruciating.

    It’s also pessimistic; their world fails to present the possibility of regeneration as the flipside of rot and decay as David Altmejd’s similar but slicker glam-rock horror sculptures of werewolves convincingly do. Still, their absurdist take on the American place in this political moment is almost as bracingly relevant and visually compelling as Justin Faunce’s strident dissection of the postmodern society of spectacle. As Bercowetz and Bua describe the sculptural relief that functions as a maquette for the installation: "It’s not accurate in every historical detail but it is authentic."

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