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Thursday April 24, 2014
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Grammar of the Elite



Settings designed for the masses by the elite are rendered in the striking juxtaposition of Columbia (MO) photographer Joe Johnson's photographs of the prismatic interiors of Reno casinos, and Menomonie (WI) artist Mike Tarr's minimalist sketches of housing subdivisions. Both Johnson and Tarr capture the sharp edges and straight lines of professional architecture, and, in doing so, underscore the imposed order and control of such manufactured spaces.

One of my favorites in the exhibit is Ann Arbor-based artists Robin Wilt and Stan Mendenhall's Pecking Order, a series of diptychs that compare human and chicken hierarchies. One features, on one half, an illustration of a tutu-wearing chicken en pointe, and on the other, a pictorial tier of dancers, ranging from the topmost "prima ballerina" down to "pole dancer" and the lowly "community theater reunion." An accompanying QR code allows smartphone users to view a short video of Wilt and Mendenhall's chickens feeding, with the "elite" asserting their supremacy and claiming choice food scraps. The parallel between us and the fowl is clear: fall in line, or get pecked.

But who knows? The chicken may yet inherit the earth.

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