Alan Goodrich: i’m not scared

Melvile Library Gallery, Stony Brook University, October 31 – November 11, 2007

“I’m not scared” the constant refrain of countless Halloween revelers as they travel from horror film to haunted house to trick-or-treating in local neighborhoods made spooky with cotton cobwebs, inflatable ghosts and goblins, and plastic witches and headless horsemen with burning red eyes. Alan Goodrich presents paintings, drawings, video, and photographs thematically linked by Halloween hijinks, real and fictionalized fright and violence, and the catharsis provided by experiences with the grotesque. Though elements of the work may provide nausea or puzzlement through shaky camera and brushwork or delicate and childlike pen- and draftsmanship, the works will not frighten viewers. Instead, the works in “I’m not scared” serve to interrogate the institution and economy of the fright industry, refuting the possibilities and politics of fear, and pointing towards processes of jading and disillusionment as we move into adulthood.

The exhibit opens with a silent film composed of a number of short titled sections that depict various moments in the historic witch trials at Salem, Massachusetts. Sweeping views of restored buildings and their interiors, the surrounding countryside, the path to execution, and the hanging tree, largely devoid of human activity and executed with deliberately shaky camera work provide a dizzying, otherworldly feel and fill viewers with a sense of suspense and dread, though this is dispelled somewhat by the deadpan delivery.

Nearby, a series of carefully executed cinematic drawings recreate moments and characters from a number of horror films. The childlike, sketchy, and imprecise rendering adds a giddy appeal to the works and points to comedic aspects of the films. Viewers will instantly recognize many of the films (Saw III, Reanimator) while others will be unfamiliar to all but the most avid of horror film buffs (The Toolbox Murders, Driller Killer, Sleepaway Camp). Taken together these series of drawings reinforces the precarious relationship between comedy and fright and suggests the catharsis provided by and through horror films.

October, a group of Polaroid photographs appear to be snapshots, taken at various locations throughout the month. However, further examination reveals careful composition and an expert understanding of the difficult medium of instant photography. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich lays open on a plate, carefully bitten to suggest a heart, while Pooh Bear menaces viewers. This series embodies the change of season associated with October and brought about falling leaves and other changes in weather and their effect on our desires and attitudes.

Four Fundamentals, a four-panel polyptych, is the last piece in the exhibition presents four bodily substances produced by extreme fear and repeatedly reproduced in Horror films. Brown, yellow, blue, and red dominate the panels, into which Goodrich has inscribed short, repeated phrases that describe the bodily processes at issue, the realization of which may disgust viewers, though the naïve, sketchy, tentative, and brushy handling of the paint and a consideration of the possible interpretations of the work provide a certain comedic release. Four Fundamentals is an appropriate piece to place at the end to the exhibit because it provides a thematic linkage to the rest of the works in its color, content, and execution. While the colors suggest autumn, the content adds a sense of disgust and suggests release, and the imprecise execution recalls the sketchy character of the drawings, the blurring of the photographs, and the shaky camera work found in other pieces in the exhibit. Throughout “I’m not scared,” images of historical and imaginary violence and fright provide a cathartic release, transforming fear into laughter, and returning a sense of balance to the everyday.

 

For more about Alan Goodrich, and to view images of his current works, please visit his website.

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