Just Below the Bang Bang – Vane Gallery Review

Mark Joshua Epstein, ‘Just below the bang bang’, 2017, installation view. Photo: Colin Davison

Epstein’s exhibition comprises of mixed media collages, and installation, unified perhaps by kitsch or more simply their bizarreness.

  In the room of installations stacked chairs teeter, threatening to fall and crush the flowers made of foam, wire and fly-swatters which sprout out of them. The bright hues thus do not suggest cheer but give a jarring, ominous sense. The fly-swatters are not amusing but defensive, they await danger we cannot see. This sense of discord highlighted as the piece sits in a room with walls painted with jagged patterns in lurid hues. All but one, on which hang posters of kittens overlaid with threatening words. In the next room hang the collages. Again lurid, again using stark pattern, layering clashing kitsch on kitsch.

  The overall effect is not, however, violent. It retains a certain amusement making the works accessible, encouraging you to linger long and tease out their details. The reward for those who do is the opportunity to appreciate the small surprises in the harmonies between the sections, and the happiness in being able to block out the world and lose yourself, momentarily, in almost childlike patterns in familiar media.

  The title comes from a comment of a war journalist, working just below gunfire. This accounts for the mood of the piece- there is a sense of a threat, there is certainly danger, we are indeed, like the chairs, teetering on the edge and all may fall at any moment. But while we teeter there is an undercurrent of fun. This tone refers to the state of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. No one knows what is coming, and the danger is undeniable. Others have fallen and we probably will too but fear will not be allowed to dominate. We must enjoy the colours and the fun while it lasts.

Helena Buchanan

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