Don Lambert’s newly opened installation at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is called Lawn Jobs, but it might as well be named 50 Shades of Green.
His primary material is artificial grass, which can apparently be summoned in countless green hues and molded, as Lambert has done, into abstract shapes. Most of Lambert’s formations harbor dangerous implications: One looks like a hatchet, another a firearm aiming at, or pointed from, an outstretched arm. A triptych leaning against a wall could resemble three pieces of pie, but to my eyes, it conjures the universal symbol for radioactive material. Meanwhile, three mossy boulders, excavated from the gallery’s grounds and dragged punishingly into place in the center of the room, seem to be communicating with the faux grass sculptures, like an underwhelming Stonehenge.
What is Lambert trying to tell us through the subtle menace of his kitschy medium? If these geometric hazards were discovered as crop circles, they would give any ufologist pause – what are the extraterrestrials warning us about?
I think his aim is simpler and more cutting. The dangers he suggests are rooted in a satire of the perfectly manicured and sprinkled Middle American lawn, to which plenty of suburban families have tended as their own work of art. As I strolled through the capacious main gallery – the installation comprises just nine objects – I thought of the credit sequence in “Blue Velvet,” where David Lynch’s camera tracked across flawless lawns and the playful families enjoying them … before revealing a severed ear in the grass. The message hidden in Lambert’s vision, if there is one, may be as simple as this: Be careful out there.
Located in the next gallery over, Brandon Opalka’s “Janigans” serves up its satire in louder, more schizophrenic doses. It’s also a site-specific installation, but unlike Lambert’s wide-open spaces, it’s busier than Grand Central at rush hour.
On a cork board, next to a sign that says “Janigans Art Bar,” hangs a myriad of random objects, fragments of a hoarder’s inventory glued together with elbow grease and TLC: yearbook pictures, puzzling drawings, a small photo collage of half-naked women, a flattened package of frying oil, an ugly slab of carpet. All of this gathers above a paint-splattered workbench, under which is a cluster of discarded athletic jerseys.
And that’s only the introduction to the gallery. Walk through it, and you’ll find that Opalka’s manic approximation of a sports bar is a veritable kaleidoscope of neon tubing, lurid red tinting, towers of bottles and innumerable wall decorations, including a tattered American flag, a bicycle helmet and faded snapshots of sports stars. The copious shamrocks and green ribbons reveal that “Janigans” must be an Irish pub, though the DVDs playing on the three televisions are less specific: NFL bloopers, a fishing documentary, “Die Hard.”
It looks like an imaginative setting from a zonked-out Terry Gilliam film, but in fact, Opalka based his concept on Flanigan’s, the South Florida restaurant chain. It could just as easily skewer places like Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, Cracker Barrel or any other middlebrow eatery with a focus-group-tested illusion of chaos on its walls. “Janigans” is a sly commentary on these chains’ ordered confusion, which are intended to provide character but which only stress uniformity.
I love this installation because it sends up sports bars with a subversive, anarchic glee and I, for one, would love to enjoy a meal in his apocalyptic pub.
The exhibitions run through April 14. The Art and Culture Center is at 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission is $7 adults and $4 students, seniors and children. Call 954-921-3274 or visit artandculturecenter.org.