Lessons in conceptual fantasy

“Can you stop trying to repeat what I say?”

“Why?”

“Cause it’s getting annoying.”

“How do you think I feel?”

“Huh?”

“Come again?”

“Come again where?”

Conversation can get a bit bizarre in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Especially when one of the participants is an animatronic head, part of Ken Feingold’s “Sinking Feeling.” Feingold is one of 13 artists whose recent work is displayed in The 47th Corcoran Biennial exhibition Fantasy Underfoot. The exhibit is a celebration of 1960s conceptual art and its use of a variety of mediums. The above conversation took place between a little boy (Eric) talking into a microphone whose words are interpreted by a computer and a talking dummy. The dummy asked more philosophical questions of its more mature viewers, such as “Do I really exist?”

Feingold’s ironic critique of a technological world categorizes one of several themes prevalent in

Fantasy Underfoot. Other themes include the influences of hip-hop, imagination, desire, globalization and international cohesion.

Two of the most remarkable installments are those by Jacob El Hanani and Linda Besemer. They’re exceptional for their attention to detail. Hanani’s pieces consist of minute marks – dots, circles, grids and Hebrew calligraphy – on beige paper no bigger than two square feet. In some pieces, the marks are scattered like grains of sand, while in others they are densely concentrated in grids.

Besemer’s pieces consist of what appear to be large, colorful plastic drapes hung over aluminum rods and supported by the gallery’s walls. The plastic in actuality is nothing but layers of paint. After reading a description of the artist’s creative process, it is apparent to the viewer that what seems simple is truly quite complex. Perhaps this is the message Besemer is sending about the artistic world.

While each installment in the show would be intriguing in it’s own gallery, as one exhibit Fantasy Underfoot is lacking cohesive thread. Each artist’s work is so distracting that it becomes difficult to glean the exhibition’s intellectual message: that fantasy is not that different from reality. Still, as a weekend adventure, the collection is well worth a look.

“Fantasy Underfoot” is showing at the The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW, through March 10. The museum is open Wenesday through Monday.

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