Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jenny Mullins and Sarah Knobel Review, Washington, DC -

There's an element of vanitas symbolism in Mullins's show, which is called "Gold for the Price of Silver" and which the artist has described as a critique of American consumerism and excess. That old art-historical trick - seen most often in still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries - uses pictures of live flowers and the bounty of the harvest to hint at their opposites: death and scarcity.

It's essentially the same trick that monologuist Mike Daisey used in his theatrical show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." In that show, which returns to Woolly Mammoth this summer for a brief remounting, Daisey contrasted our love for Apple's gorgeous devices with thoughts about how they're made.

Mullins's work never feels didactic or scolding. There's no tone of schoolmarmish superiority here. If she wants us to contemplate the rot that hides behind the beautiful things we crave, it's only because she craves them, too.