Place Gallery dabbles in wish fulfillment

Drawings on demand, hypnotic handling of common objects, and birthday candle blowouts.

Last Saturday at Place Gallery‘s latest interactive, irreverent opening, an exhibiting artist “kissed up” to the gallery curator—literally. Artist Michael Reinsch accepted three dollars from curator Gabe Flores, then, to the delighted shock of onlookers, the two engaged in this three-minute makeout session:

Having already clinched a spot at Place, what compelled Reinsch into this act of proto-prostitution that one onlooker described as “a puppy licking a rubber doll?” Trading small bills for small favors is a facet of the artist’s exhibit, and plays into the gallery’s current thematic exploration: the psychology of—and the fine distinctions between—wish, desire, and instant-versus-delayed gratification.

Worth a visit in its own right, this month’s installation is consistent with Place’s overarching oeuvre: “social practice” that avoids being preachy, and evades the pitfall of simply fetishizing the ordinary through polished presentation and next-level novelty.

Michael Reinsch’s “On Demand” juxtaposes artistry with Starbuck’s service model.

This artist and part-time PNCA prof supplements his income pulling shifts at Starbuck’s, and brings that service model back to the gallery for further examination. Dressed in an aquamarine polo shirt and perched behind a color-coordinated sales counter, Reinsch plays the role of a short-order server, inviting visitors to pick his artistic services from an overhead menu that offers paintings, poems, and more in “small,” “medium,” and “large” sizes or at a dollar-per-minute price. Conspicuously missing from the menu are the kisses; they were an opening-night special. Regardless of whether Reinsch’s made-to-order creations end up slaking his customer’s cravings, his premise blows open a conversation about art’s reluctant-but-inevitable relationship to customer service.

Adrienne Huckabone’s “HD Sensations” creates cravings for everyday pleasures.

In a cordoned-off corner on a silent looped projection, we watch dainty hands with gum-pink nails stroke a pelt of fur, pour a can of San Pelligrino over ice cubes in a glass, pop a sheet of plastic bubble-wrap, et cetera. A white background with pale gray shadows offsets each object in turn, forcing the viewer’s focus and interest to rivet upon them. This ploy (however obvious) creates a faint, hypnotized longing to experience firsthand the stimuli being shown. Meant to depict “pleasures derived from everyday life” through a hyper-sensory lens, Huckabone’s exhibit also demonstrates a subtler truth: context is a bigger influencer of desire than mere object. To put it more simply, we don’t want things for what they are, but for the way they appear in a given moment.
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Katherine Groesbeck’s “Wish Making & Practicalities” gives gallery-goers a birthday blowout.

The ceiling is festooned with white balloons, the floor carpeted, county-fair-style, in hay, and the walls are painted in broad, clean verticle stripes of white and mint green. Two pedestals present pale pink birthday cakes, each with a hot pink candle pressed into the center. The artist’s intention: make a wish. Last Saturday, many visitors did just that, as evidenced by piles of burnt-down candle nubs and used matches. Once you make a wish, curator Gabe Flores instructed, you write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a communal collection can. When the exhibit closes, the artist has promised to send all the wishes “on a magical journey.”

This tableau seems reminiscent of whimsical social-practice acts from TBA Fests past (kids giving haircuts, a man lighting taper candles all over his body) or even certain interactive exhibits at Burningman. The phase where the wishes travel brings to mind Tiffany Lee Brown’s Easter Island project, in which Brown personally transported various participants’ handmade curios she dubbed “seeds” to the mysterious island as a pseudo-pagan luck offering on behalf of their makers. Precedents notwithstanding, it’s fun to make a wish, and—however irrationally—the act pricks even the coldest cynic’s hope.

“Help Wanted”: The reviewer gets recruited to work a shift.

Spotting a “Help Wanted” sign on the corner of Reinsch’s counter on my way out, I called his bluff and was repaid in kind. Without batting an eye, Reinsch presented a multi-page boiler-plate application for me to fill out, then hired me on the spot! I will train on Friday and man the “On Demand” exhibit on Saturday afternoon from 2-6pm, making art to order while you wait. If you like, come test my improvisation and crafting skills—or simply stay tuned to ArtsWatch for my findings. Your wish is my command.

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