Klara Glosova grew up in Eastern Europe and saw its revolution. She didn't see the 1980 American comedy film Caddyshack.
She only saw it a couple of years ago, in fact, and afterward, there was a scene she couldn't get out of her head. Why was this ridiculous movie on her mind?
It's the scene of the pool party, when everyone is cavorting and splashing in a smiley soup of happy—they're so joyously in sync that the whole party breaks into a spontaneous synchronized swimming routine—until somebody drops a Baby Ruth into the water and people begin to scream "Doodie!" and scramble out of the water to the theme song from Jaws.
In the span of a second—watch it, you'll see—the scene changes so that the pool is not only empty of people but drained of its water, and Bill Murray is standing there in a white hazmat suit cleaning up.
Glosova was struck by the sudden need to isolate and protect oneself against everyone else, by the sudden outbreak of disaster. She was also struck by the pure happiness of the pool party that preceded it.
For some reason, she didn't know why, she played the movie over again and shot photographs of it—stills—while it ran. Not long after that, she began to see hazmat-suit news photographs as word of the ebola outbreak spread, real disaster photographs that could have been mistaken for the stills she made of the comedy.
She was struck at the power of images to tell stories, and their power to get stories wrong.
Without a compass, she created artwork after artwork in her studio and eventually her response became this month's solo exhibition at Glass Box Gallery, Caddy Shack.
Here she adds photography, prints, video, performance, installation, and drawing, and the result is a satisfyingly untidy treatment of a difficult set of themes including the artist's role in a world of real disasters, a housewife's role in caring for her own body, and the way that shit can look like candy, and comedy can look like tragedy, and vice versa.
Daily Dozen is a video in which Glosova performs movements from Murray's pool cleanup routine, wearing a hooded protective suit and to the voiceover of an exercise guru who promises that everything in life will improve if the woman will just stick to the routine.
She looks scary but ridiculous, bringing to mind Abu Ghraib, Red Riding Hood, and Jane Fonda. Two photographic prints on silk on the wall next to the video isolate the charged setting she created, and add to the feeling that something disturbing is being documented.
Those pieces are in the dark space of the gallery's black box room. The next room, somewhat lighter, contains a series of collaged images on fabric, and a big text drawing.
In cursive letters, Glosova drew out in pen some of her own personal writing intertwined with painstaking instructions for how to put on a safety apron found in a Guardian interview with an Australian Red Cross nurse working to help ebola sufferers in Sierra Leone.
The way Glosova curved and triple-outlined the letters, it hurts a little to read the whole thing. The writing's meaning is coded by its appearance.
Part of it is about Glosova's late grandmother. Part is about the way bright colors surprised and thrilled her when she moved to the United States after growing up in the (literally) grayer world behind the Iron Curtain. This is an interesting clue about the difference between what color means to her, and what it might mean to her American audiences.
The biggest piece is a large grid of collaged photographs printed on fabric. Some have bars printed on them as if they're still loading or part of a video game.
The images are of three types and sometimes superimposed: the artist in the isolation of her studio, disaster relief workers in hazmat suits, and stills from Caddyshack. They form an anxious quilt that's familiar in its vagueness combined with oversaturation. We see many dramatic-looking activities going on, but we don't know why, where, who, when.
On a facing wall, pieces of fabric are folded like kitchen towels and strung over a line of red yarn. Each is printed with a brightly colored cutout photograph of the artist performing her own moves in a pool on a sunny day. The photograph is worked over in paint. The water is heavy sludge and the artist can't move right.
The piece is called Cutouts (I'm just f*ing trying to make a sunny pool) #1.
And then she does f*ing make a sunny pool.
The naturally lit outermost room of the gallery—so, what you see from the street—is full of her large, exuberant watercolor paintings on the walls.
The bubble-gum colors are markers for joyfulness, but even these moments contain effort and distance. They're marked by words or screen-loading bars that break down a full sense of being able to project yourself into their fantasy.
They're maybe something more like the inner life of a pool party, or an attempt to find out what's going on internally when we experience those fleeting moments of uncontrolled communal happiness. It's hard to access that feeling except afterward or something hoped-for. It becomes signaled to in stock pictures and colors, and words like "pool party," which when shouted can bring certain crowds immediately to glee.
Small rectangles of concrete sit on the floor under the paintings. In a phone conversation, Glosova told me she felt she had to put those there. They are, she said, the bottom of the pool.
Part of what's beginning to emerge for me is how Glosova's Eastern European sensibility informs her work, which appears at first cheerful and yet has a concrete bottom, is personal and yet never far from wondering about the artist's place in the larger context of world events. Her work gets more interesting, and powerful, with time.
Humor is never absent. There is a 1980s-era phone in the gallery, she told me. (I missed it completely when I was there.) Its presence was inspired by a story that Bill Murray at one point decided to fire his agent and get a 1-800 number, so that anyone who wanted to reach him had to go through that single line. It was his version of a protective suit in a world that was overwhelming him with noise.
Lift the receiver in the gallery and you will hear Glosova speak for 18 minutes about the work. She's addressing Murray in the talk, inviting him to her version of a pool party.