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Art review: Jeanne Silverthorne at Shoshana Wayne Gallery

November 6, 2009 |  2:00 pm

300_JeanneBackAndForth Rubber  can be a funny material. It’s bouncy and used to make things like whoopee cushions and rubber chickens.

Jeanne Silverthorne takes advantage of these associations to poke fun at artistic genius by reproducing its hallowed site — the studio — almost entirely out of rubber. At Shoshana Wayne Gallery , the installation includes a faux-wood patterned rubber chair and easel, a trash can full of rubber light bulbs, several rubber shipping crates and of course, rubber plants, complete with ambitious rubber ants.

Silverthorne seems to exhort us not to take art so seriously, but her pliant studio artifacts are also laced with signs of decay and disease. There are dying flowers, tiny flies and candles shaped like DNA sequences for mental afflictions like depression and panic (also all made of rubber). The quiet charm of the exhibition emerges as it uses this dark sense of humor to buoy the inevitable doubts and failures of artistic practice.

The objects function on several different levels, one of which is simply that they are made from an unexpected medium. The chair, easel and crates look like wood but are made of rubber, which turns them into a species of cartoon prop that one imagines might go bouncing or shimmying around the room.

But then there are objects like the trash can of light bulbs studded with flies, which could be just that, but might also be a metaphor for discarded, rotten ideas. Also of indeterminate status are the DNA candles, which could be artworks, but might also be read as novelties or a darkly humorous statement about artistic practice fueled by mental disorder. This multivalent approach allows the pieces’ goofy humor to surface alongside their more macabre implications, cleverly defusing some of the drama we normally associate with the depths of creativity.

– Sharon Mizota

Jeanne Silverthorne, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave. No. B1, Santa Monica. (310) 453-7535, through Jan. 9. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.shoshanawayne.com

Photo: Jeanne Back and Forth, 2009. Photo Credit: Gene Ogami.

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