Beefy men float in a black void. As they jump on and head-butt invisible assailants, their images draw closer and closer together until they form a ball of flailing limbs. In his four-minute video Wrestle Nebula (2007), Travis LeRoy Southworth plays, rewinds, rotates and layers isolated footage of several WWF fighters. Weightless wrestlers, it turns out, make a good antidote to heavy times.
In presenting work that defies gravity, however figuratively, this show lends itself to lighthearted innovations. Amy Cutler’s exquisitely detailed style renders reality-flouting narratives like Arrangement (2002) especially appealing. The painting depicts a young woman perched a few stories in midair atop a tower of furniture that she’s presumably stacked herself. She hoists one last chair above a pile that includes a massive desk, an armoire and other signs of bourgeois domesticity—all supported by a Ping-Pong table—to escape two crocodiles who gaze up at her as they lounge on her wooden sleigh bed. The dessert-hurling women hiding behind trees in Cutler’s lithograph Cake Toss (2004) likewise add a hint of feminist rebellion to a scene that subverts the laws of physics.
Cutler’s fantastic modernish scenes translated into the visual language of Persian miniatures are the best works on display. Yet photographs by Lilly McElroy and Adam Ekberg present intriguing “real” examples of lighter-than-air human activity. (A soap bubble floating through Ekberg’s untitled 2008 photo of an apartment elevates the ordinary interior to the sublime.) Although a few mixed-media works examine gravity in relation to physical materials, we do wish this crucial aspect of the show’s theme had been given more weight.