The Michael Jackson Project at Zsa Zsa (962 Queen West) to August 29. 416-537-3814. Rating: NNNN
Ted Tucker at Fran Hill (230 Queen East) to August 30. 416-363-1333. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
being a child can be tough. questing for fame can be really tough. Questing for fame when you're a child can be really, really tough. Ted Tucker 's show explores the harsh, stereotyped world of American junior beauty queens, tiny misses in dresses and done-up hairdos making happy to win a prize.
Behind Tucker's beauty pageant, as with many things that look too pretty to be true, lurks a dark undercurrent. A group of sweet cowgirls in their cowgirl hats and cow-print vests begins to resemble a rough-and-ready gang at second or third glance. Their seemingly happy faces become twisted and aggressive, like they'd kill you for wearing the wrong animal print.
A series of four portraits reveal ominous faces rendered with a porcelain sheen. These four girls seem like little adults, and mean ones at that. Two standout paintings - Miami Fashion Opulence #2, two little smiling American beauties half-hugging and half-wrestling; and Liberty, a little girl dressed head-to-waist in the Stars and Stripes, flashing a winning smile over her shoulder - have bright graffitied backgrounds that lend a gang element to the works.
Tucker can really paint, which is rare, but he can also write an excellent artist statement, which is rarer still. In revealing the double meaning of the show's title, Delete All Cookies, he explains how he had to erase his path on the Internet when gathering source material (deleting the trail of crumbs that can reveal one's movements), but also how these children "have no fun and therefore get no cookies." Cute but sad.
If Tucker's work is the before, then The Michael Jackson Project at Zsa Zsa is the after to end all afters. The oft-maligned, self-proclaimed King of Pop is the focus of dozens of artworks that cram the tiny gallery, making it feel more like a 3-D scrapbook than an exhibition. The works (due to the blackout, many of the pieces arrived late) play with Jacko's wacko persona in a way that's fun but not mean-spirited.
Daryl Vocat 's satin pillow sits in the window with the words of a child embroidered onto its face.
Apparently, this child likes Michael Jackson (note wrong spellings) because he or she likes to sing Beat It and Thriller and because of the way he dances. It's a sweet reminder of the many people who love Jackson, as opposed to the many who love to hate him.
Speaking of which, R. M. Vaughan contributes a great little essay exploring the idea that people pick on Jacko because it allows them to still be seen as politically correct while dumping on someone with stereotypically homosexual traits like flamboyance and liking young boys. Very interesting.
Lex Vaughn and John Caffery have painted a series of images - Michael with Bubbles the monkey, Michael with Liz Taylor, Michael with hair on fire during Pepsi commercial shoot - on the lenses of oversized 1980s MJ-style sunglasses, and photographed portraits of people wearing them. It's clever art verging on merchandising genius.
The most amusing of the works that had been installed by last Saturday (August 16) was a video by Lisa Pereira in which a couple of naked, hairy Caucasian men share a rather smallish bathtub, one masked as the King of Pop and the other as Bubbles the monkey. The Jackson character gives the Bubbles character an endearing sponge bath that comes to a rather abrupt conclusion.