Visual Arts

Bait and Switch

Remember those commercials that promised 52 free dinners with any windshield replacement? Over time, the offer dwindled to 20 free dinners at a salad buffet, then 12 barbecue meals, and, finally, a single box of steaks.

What happens when you replace an attractive offer with items that are less desirable? Artist Allison Wear explores this concept in "52 free dinners," an exhibition of photography and mixed-media games at five15 Gallery in downtown Phoenix.

In i went to rotterdam and all I got was this lousy curse, colorful stained-glass lanterns cast a warm amber glow on the wood-paneled interior of a Netherlands eatery. The caption below the photograph indicates that, while dining at the restaurant, the artist broke a Dutch superstition and was cursed with seven years of bad sex. It's an attractive image, but difficult to understand within the framework of "replacement." It seems as if Wear has forced the photograph to conform to her thesis, rather than allowing the work itself to define the theme.

The same issue extends to the handmade games on the opposite wall. The title piece, a wall-mounted display of cheap plastic pinball games arranged in the shape of an arched window, is a clever use of her photographic travel diary. The contradiction here is that Wear has replaced the childish cartoon drawings that typically appear in this type of game with enticing images of ancient cathedrals and towering trees. The installation simply doesn't follow through with the emotional implications of the theme.

I was expecting to experience the sense of loss and indignation that customers felt upon having their dreams of a year of free dinners dashed. I wasn't, however, expecting to feel that about the exhibition itself. Wear, an ASU fine arts graduate, is relatively new to the Phoenix art scene, so her work shouldn't be discounted solely based on one show. Still, she has some making up to do. I was promised 52 free dinners — a searing examination of replacement — and I left feeling like all I got was one lousy box of steaks.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden