That there is Matthew Day Jackson's Chariot II (I Like America and America Likes Me) (2008), the centerpiece of the Henry Art Gallery's new show The Violet Hour. It's made of a Skip Nichols race car (crashed/Corvette), steel, wool, felt, leather, stained glass, fluorescent light tubes, solar panels, fiberglass, and plastic.
Like Jackson's other two works in the show, this one is a glorious thing to look at and look at and keep looking at. It's also full of associations in and outside of art—the first to come to mind are Richard Prince's treatments of upstate New York, Beuys's plane crash and rescue by the Tartars, and stained-glass windows that survive in bombed-out cathedrals. Traditional Western art and pioneer stories are swirling around, too: the driver's seat is made from a leather cowboy saddle, and set in the passenger's seat like an eerie mask is a reflective astronaut's helmet wrapped in gray felt. Oh, and the entire sculpture is solar-powered.
That's the "shattered" windshield of the car.
There's the cowboy saddle and the space helmet inside the car.
The Violet Hour is a remarkably entertaining show for being so simultaneously grim. Jen Liu's videos feature Pink Floyd standards sung in Latin plainchant, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” performed by a community brass band and performed as an operatic aria for a soprano, cannibalism, brutalist architecture, and pretty young men. In Croatian artist David Maljkovic's videos, young people in a post-communist daze linger under the burdensome, overpowering modernist architecture of the Italian Pavilion of the Zagreb Fair, loitering in and around cars that have been immobilized.
The overlapping themes in the show reveal themselves continually: cars, architecture, nature, text, religion, crystalline forms. It's a show in which you can do plenty of mental work while also having a great time.
Talking to the artists (except Maljkovic, who had to remain in Croatia with his wife, who's expecting) was much the same experience. Have a listen.