Rats in Paradise

rocket-padDefrosted: A Life of Walt Disney
 
Billed in the gallery press release as a "concept album" exhibition jointly curated by David Humphrey and Adam Cvijanovic, Defrosted: a Life of Walt Disney brings together a group of artists whose works weave together various aspects of cartooning and pop culture to illustrate scenes from the life of the Mouse King, arranged in three parts through two gallery rooms.

A wall mural collaboratively painted by Cvijanovic and Humphrey presents the most straightforward narrative: Walt playing polo, the construction of the Matterhorn, etc. in a goofy, theatrical way reminiscent of 19th century cycloramas. Cvijanovic and Humphrey merge their styles smoothly; the "background", fields of wheat, forests, fairytale castles and such is Cvijanovic; the "actors" -- Walt falling off a pony, riding a pig, etc. -- is pure Humphrey. The mural painting recreates the process that early Disney animation used, lush backgrounds with layers of the animation cells superimposed. Humphrey goes a step further by hanging the mural with canvases and panels of his warped-Walt character, creating a meta level of narrative.
 
The mural plays a background role to a rough-hewn, homemade-looking sculptural recreation of the infra-structure of the Matterhorn, hung Christmas tree-style with the work of the other artists included in the exhibition. Notable standouts among the ornaments include a Franz Kline-inspired Mickey Mouse by Joyce Pensata and a small oil by Adam Hurwitz of a butterfly-tattooed midriff (shades of Pocahontas and Ariel). Mickey is hanged in effigy in the center of this Tatlin-inspired construction (suspended animation?), and the apex is topped by a frosted wedding cake. Whether or not the sum of these parts adds up to a cohesive whole is beside the point of this piece; like the Matterhorn, it is the ride that matters, not where you end up.
 
The second gallery, and the narrative’s conclusion, is dominated by Humphrey's scatter sculpture of a Stonehenge Mickey watching a homemade video reconstruction of "Steamboat Mickey." Here the Mouse is a series of disconnected, acid-Easter egg-colored plaster forms, with a vinyl cap and ears melting into the floor like a BP oil spill. The sense of "melting" perhaps refers to the only real disappointment of the show: it turns out Walt wasn't frozen, but buried in the family crypt, as illustrated in the final painting of the show. The sense of twisted abject nostalgia perfectly sums up the tone of this exhibition, Mickey Mouse as Norma Desmond. - Bradley Rubenstein

Defrosted is at Postmasters Gallery, 459 West 19th St., Manhattan, through August 6, 2010

dom

Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and art aficionado.

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