Here’s a nice review of Playtime written by Neil Thrun for The Kansas City Star. Originally published 1/9/2013
“Playtime,” as the name suggests, is an exhibition of very playful artworks. Paintings and sculptures by Dave Rhoads and Matt Jacobs explore different connotations of the word “play” through ideas of sport, children’s games and sex.
Rhoads’ paintings have a central theme of sport and performance, represented by human hands and feet. In paintings such as “Handmade” and “Made from Scratch,” scraps of torn canvas covered in bright colors depict a blocky palm and a fist gripping a flexible drywall knife. In both works, the images relate to the act of their own creation by a human hand with human tools.
A much larger painting, “Samba,” stands in the middle of the gallery. Two canvases attached on their sides by hinges stand at right angles to each other, so that a viewer can stand between the canvases.
A chaotic dance-step of large, bulbous shoes are painted across the surface. The argument is simple: Dancing and painting are quite similar activities; a dancer plays with his or her feet across a floor while a painter plays with paint across a surface.
Matt Jacobs’ sculptures have a different take on play, in terms of child’s play and adult play. Jacob’s sculpture “Thisnthat” is a strange construction of plastic toy buckets, painted wood, nylon string and a boom box playing a short loop of Thurston Harris’ “Little Bitty Pretty One.” The long wooden 2x2s are planted into the toy buckets like flowers, with their stems painted green. Nylon string dangles about, and while the sculpture is well constructed with screws and precise angles, it has the improvised look of something a child might throw together. The clapping and humming of the classic rock n’ roll song add to the playfulness.
The improvised appearance of “Thisnthat” is contrasted by Jacobs’ sculpture “Don’t Worry. I Won’t Hurt You. I Only Want You to Have Some Fun,” a tower of cement cinder blocks, stacked at least 10 feet into the air, with inflatable beach toys stuffed in the blocks. As you walk around the tower, there is a great sense of weight and danger, with the inflated objects acting like sex toys, protruding in and out of the cement holes. As the menacing title suggests, even the appearance of risk creates a more exhilarating kind of playing.
As shown by the artists, the term “play” has many different uses. But whether it’s the play of sports, children or adults, there is still a core idea of play being pleasurable.
“Playtime” is the time of hedonism. Play can be interminable; without any expectations it can go on forever. If the artworks are merely the results of play, they are immediately coherent to any viewer. The artists are simply playing around, and there is nothing important or deep to be grasped. If there is any danger in these artworks, it is in this gross simplification of the concept of art.
It would be a complete exaggeration to write this work off as pure hedonistic decadence; inversely, this work allows us to see the limitations and utility of playfulness.
By NEIL THRUN Special to The Star