Friday, March 09, 2007

David Hasselhoff, McLeod, Hincman

How to tell a joke?

Consider James McLeod’s installation “Don’t Hassle the Hoff (Fallen Heroes Series)” in “Selections ’07,” an exhibit at MassArt of work by 10 teachers, either new members of the college’s faculty or teachers returning from sabbatical. The show closes tomorrow. (I can’t find a webpage for Mr. McLeod – and if there’s something that needs a webpage it’s this installation/shrine.)

First, on the floor is a plush carpet decorated with an image of the television star David Hasselhoff, naked, reclining with a pair of shar pei puppies (above the photo McLeod used, below installation shot). Above his legs the carpet bears another image of Hasselhoff, this time dashing through surf Baywatch-style.

Second, the rug is flanked by a pair of red velvet ropes alterting you that you’re very special indeed to lay eyes on this glory. Third, seven plaques hanging on the wall above the carpet are inscribed with important pronouncements attributed to Hasselhoff like “There are many dying children out there whose last wish is to meet me” and “(Baywatch) is responsible for a lot of world peace.”

Hasselhoff’s fame is predicated on appearing in camp television classics, Knight Rider and Baywatch; his hunky body; and the acting chops of a Ken doll. Oh, and getting misty eyed when Taylor Hicks won “American Idol.” By some amazing American pop culture magic, his, uh, allure multiplies beyond these root causes. I think it has something to do with him being good, giving, and game enough to play along with his plastic persona (see “The Spongebob Squarepants Movie”).

But whatever it is, McLeod’s straight-faced shrine to the Hoff taps it brilliantly. I suppose McLeod is saying something about the nincompoops we, as a society, venerate. And there’s an implied critique of Hollywood stars' inflated sense of themselves. (Though, I think if you read Hasselhoff’s statements in context – and the Internets suggest the ones McLeod quotes may be real – you realize he’s in on the joke.) But these issues are tangents. This is just a great, hilarious, satisfying goof.

Stay tuned: McLeod is rumored to have a Suzanne Somers ThighMaster piece too.

Also noteworthy in "Selections '07" are three sculptures by Matthew Hincman. Here’s his curled in on itself park bench that he snuck into Jamaica Pond last year. There’s also altered wooden blinds and “Bed/Table” (2001) (pictured above), a finely crafted wooden table with a mini bed headboard sprouting from one end. He specializes in such charming furniture mutations.

“Selections ’07,” MassArt, 621 Huntington Ave., Boston, Jan. 30 to March 10, 2007.


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