Run, don't walk, to see Junk Mail this month at Soap Gallery. "Act Now!" "Don't Delay!" These phrases populate Jeff Canham's paintings on wood, mimicing the eye-catching starbursts that litter the ads in our mailboxes. Junk mail is guaranteed recycling for most people, but curators Sarah Smith and Andy Vogt chose it as a theme for a group show -- with refreshing and phenomenal results.
The entire back wall of the gallery holds a series of crafty recreations of sale objects, made from an array of materials like fabric, paper, yarn, and pulverized junk mail. Among them are an Ikea candle (Lauren Davies), a Summer Cake (Lauren Smith), a tiny plate of Wild Caught shrimp (Terrance Graven), four Hass avocados for $1 (Michael McConnell), and one giant Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffle potato chip (Randy Colosky).
Three oversized bendy straws sit in the middle of the floor. Enlarged coupon mailers in both paper and felt hang nearby. Tara Foley produced a series of porcelain maxi-pads titled Always, each one perfectly crafted to look like the original and marked "sold." Co-curator Sarah Smith made tiny replicas of Doritos and Tostitos bags; Andy Vogt sculpted two delightful little milk jugs out of Styrofoam. Perhaps the miniaturized aspect of these objects, inspired by the tiny images found in junk mail, is what makes them so lovable.
The pieces were made independently, but installed uniformly on aluminum pegs, reminiscent of supermarket displays. Artists were given a few price points to choose from ($8.98, $59.99), like those you might find in an obnoxious advertisement. The price list for the show folds out like a piece of junk mail; most of the pieces' titles are displayed next to the ads that inspired them (culled from a blog the curators kept for inspiration).
I haven't seen work sell out so quickly in a while. The fanciful spirit of the show, and the undeniable sense of urgency (the bottom of the price list reads, "Sale Ends July 30th, 2010") inspired people to buy, buy, buy! But in a good way, like turning capitalist marketing on its head with a big dose of handmade love.
Beyond its junk mail theme, the show sparked various conversations about advertising, consumerism, and American value systems. Sarah Smith has totally scored two home runs in my book with this show and Alchemy, another show which she curated earlier this year at SoEx. I can't wait to see what she and Andy Vogt put together next.
You're bound to find something that you're compelled to take home from the Junk Mail show. If you do, try resisting the fact that it will be available for a "Limited Time Only!" If you, like me, are especially attracted to Miriam Lakes's tiny can of Comet and miniature scrubbing Sponges, you're too late. They're already sold, and they're going to look terrific in my kitchen.
Junk Mail runs through July 30, 2010 at Soap Gallery in San Francisco. For more information visit junkmailshow.blogspot.com.