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December 16, 2005

{     Sam Gibbons Hunter College MFA Thesis Show     }

Did you know that there are only 10 "true" Rorschach inkblots? Yep. It's totally true. What's more, psychologists have kept these "true" inkblots a mystery since they were developed in the early 20th century. That's right: any Rorschach you see in a book or on the Internet is actually an imitation. Hermann Rorschach who developed the test to evaluate the personalities of his subjects insisted it stay that way to maintain statistical consistency as well as to elicit spontaneous reactions.

I think New York based artist Sam Gibbons might have seen the real things because it appears as though he's trying to give us his versions of them. For Gibbons though it's translated through forms derived from early Tex Avery and Walt Disney cartoons.

Gibbons, an MFA candidate at Hunter College, is currently part of the MFA Fine Art Thesis exhibit at the program's gallery on West 41st St. in Manhattan. There you can see two variations on his Cartoon Rorschach's and other work related but not so tidily cooped in the test's visual parameters.

In an approximately 9-foot cube of space using balsa wood and MDF board he has painstakingly recreated one of his images dimensionally. Ghost elephants with Swiss cheese multi-eyes tugging on their intestines look down on a pink porky looking creature in a space saucer of the same color with wings. He is the central character. A witch and a button eyed pig with spiky teeth flank him with their regular eyed partner who speaks a skull symbol out of a thought balloon closest to the center. Below a tree stump grounds the scene in a forest setting while bunnies gaze up eating carrots. Around him numerous curious creatures participate perplexingly. In the foreground a dopey, baby blue character is shot in the back of the head by an arm with no body.

While the amazing array of characters and forms are spread out within the space they remain the thickness of the Balsa and MDF thus resisting a sculptural read. Instead it looks like a theatrical set or an amusement park ride minus the space to maneuver. The lighting, which comes from behind some of the forms while being cast from the front in others, adds to this effect giving it all a vivid glow.

In a separate space a tiny work on an unlit wall looks like a single panel from an indie comic. No bigger than 3 inches square it captures a quasi-abstract facial form with underwear being stretched over it. Its solitary appearance on a vast wall recalls Richard Tuttle via Chris Ware in its obdurate simplicity. On the floor in front of the adjacent wall a Mr. Hanky like cartoon shit made of MDF sits. Hanging on the wall above him billowy intestinal pink letters, cut from the same material, spell the phrase "Grow the Brown Tail."

A wonderful pink and blue MDF cutout of an image I'm used to seeing on canvas is the most detailed, complicated, and conventional of the group. It's beauty lies in its usage of color, it's perfect line work, and the subtle touch of black cloud poofs at the edges. These draw one in to the realization that this is a backdrop for the explosive, Rorschach fracas on top of it. This is something not readily evident when confronted with the dominance of a Pink Bunny-dog-rabbit Totem with a small gold chain in the center. On either side a button eyed duck blows on a bagpipe with XXX written on it. A rockin' green Archie dope plays guitar with tongue flailing below him while an astronaut ducky and a piggy cheerleader with a gaping esophagus (complete with dangling epiglottis) for a face finish the picture underneath.

What do we see when tested by Gibbon's "Inkblots"? Rorschach's secrets revealed through a glimpse into that place where all the memories of our Saturday morning's spent in front of the TV absorbing whatever wasn't live action are stored. The incredible way Sam taps into that candy-coated place with such fun, varied, inventive, succinct, and innocent work is astounding.

He could definitely be a rising star in the pervasive movement should he choose his work be limited to that art world alternate universe. As long as he continues to create such rich work that will hardly matter, as he will undoubtedly achieve what he has in this thesis show: that rare feat of transcending context rather than being subsumed by it.

The Hunter MFA Thesis Show will be up until mid-January. Please check it out if you are able. If you are not Sam is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in Chelsea where he will have his solo debut in 2006. Check out some of his other work on their website.

     » Hunter College Art Galleries
     » Sam Gibbon's work on Claire Oliver Gallery's website


This is some amazing work, and I'm going to have to find a way to see these pieces in person.

Posted by: Adam at December 19, 2005 8:49 PM

It's the shit right? Book tickets now. His solo show at Claire Oliver is scheduled for next November. Or you could always get ahold of the gallery and buy a small drawing.

Posted by: Aaron at December 20, 2005 2:46 AM

wtf this dude has the same name as me

Posted by: sam at July 6, 2007 12:01 PM
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