From my review of Radiator Gallery's THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS exhibition for Bomb Magazine.
Now, at Radiator Gallery in Long Island City, Queens, the stakes just got higher. In “SLOTS,” multimedia artist Maximus Clarke employs the metaphor of the slot machine to consider randomness in the life of the artist, only the payout isn’t anything like a deluge of coins; rather, it’s Western culture itself. The piece, a projection-mapped video installation, is a part of This Is How My Brain Works, a group exhibition organized by first-time curator Michael Lee that examines the practice of collage in media ranging from works on paper to artist books, photographs, sculpture, textiles, and video. According to Clarke, collage is a practice that can extend across any and all media and “SLOTS,” which questions whether there’s a set of steps that the artist can credibly climb to achieve significance, or if it’s just a game of chance, a “digital, multimedia embodiment of that practice.”
In addition to the traditional and recognizable iconography of slots culture—Lucky 7’s, hearts, and diamonds—Clarke employs images of a Roman coin depicting the profiles of the emperor Constantine and Sol Invictus, the infant Christ by Giotto, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, Edvard Munch’s Scream, a detail from Picasso’s Guernica, Magritte’s man in the bowler hat, Warhol’s Marilyn, and Damien Hirst’s jeweled skull. Also thrown into the mix are quotes from cultural sources (Yeats, Tarkovsky), biblical references, (the story of Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis), even the mundane (an excerpt from a patent description for a kind of slot machine: “the machine must be perceived to present greater chances of payoff than it actually has, within the legal limits under which games of chance must operate.”). And if that wasn’t enough, with “SLOTS” projected onto the stairs leading into the Long Island City gallery, visitors, too, become unwitting participants in the collage. As they ascend toward or descend from the exhibition, the staircase itself becomes a virtual Jacob’s Ladder with ghostly textual passages drifting along the stairs and across their bodies: “And he dreamed that there was a ladder set on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven, and behold, angels were ascending and descending on it.”