Dark humor at Bockley Gallery
What would Noah do?
Faced with rising seas, a modern Noah might follow artist Colin Matthes’ instructions for “Making a Boat From the Ruins of a Gas Station.”
That daft concept is among a dozen or so goofy but engaging ideas that the Milwaukee-based artist has written and illustrated in DIY-manual style in his show of “Instructional and Flood Resistant Work” at Bockley Gallery. The darkly amusing exhibit includes a couple of paintings and a small, highly impractical raft.
Kept afloat on foam pool-noodles, Matthes’ raft is way too fragile and underequipped for survival at sea. Scrawled on its sail is the menu for a lavish cruise-ship dinner, plus little painted vignettes of inspirational luxuries — martinis, cigars — designed to motivate the desperate to paddle harder.
Matthes’ humor is bleak but undeniably apt at a time when every newscast carries stories of refugees — from civil and religious wars, failed states, devastated economies — struggling to reach safety in rickety boats on roiling seas. As a metaphor, his raft pretty much nails the problems and paradoxes of contemporary life, where the proverbial 1 percenters cruise by munching tenderloin while the masses flounder.
Elsewhere he offers post-apocalypse survival tips for butchering small game (pull out entrails with your fingers), catching fish (make hooks from thorns), breaking down a door (kick, don’t use shoulder), purifying water, encoding messages, hot-wiring a car, and so on.
The very implausibility of this Boy Scout advice in a tenuously wired world just highlights our mutual vulnerability. He pegs style and concept together perfectly with ragged, rough-lettered penmanship, deft but scratchy drawings and scrap-work constructions. Matthes’ project is intentionally humorous, of course, but unsettling too.
Ends June 13, free. Bockley Gallery, 2123 W. 21st St., Mpls. 612-377-4669 or www.bockleygallery.com