IN WINDOW: ALAN PHELAN, Cockatoo (2013), marble, rubber glove

ON WINDOW: DOUGLAS RODRIGO RADA, Finger Ring (2003), vinyl adhesive on window

‘HANDJOB‘, 14 March - 26 April, 2013, Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin

Images courtesy of the artists.

Sometimes the local art scene seems like it’s fueled on ecologically passive cow shit, the way artworks are trendily smeared with conceptual and aesthetic neutrality, what Jean Baudrillard described (ever so slightly cynically) as “confiscating banality, waste and mediocrity to turn them into values and ideologies.”[1] So, it was with an element of shock and awe that I read ‘HANDJOB’ as the title of Alan Phelan's hybrid artist/curator project at Oonagh Young gallery, Dublin. I am neither puritan nor prude, but there is something ‘out-of-sorts’ with Phelan’s verbal brazenness for the purpose of an exhibition title. Relatively speaking, art does not do ‘explicit' well; shock and awe went out with Damien Hirst and Operation Desert Storm in the ’90s. Furthermore, exhibition titles are often times a combination of semantic and semiotic constructions, whereby meaning is cancelled out, or wanders into a loop of dialectic ambiguity. The term ‘HANDJOB’ is anything but implicit, but artists seem to have an uncanny gift for administering a measure of ambivalence to the most explicit of terminology when they get their tinkering fingers on the everyday.

To either my advantage or disadvantage, I was primed for what Phelan’s ‘HANDJOB’ was pointing towards with a ‘semiotically’ extended Inspector Gadget finger, due to keeping one eye on the artist’s ‘handy’ online commentary and posting, played out publicly on Facebook and Tumblr after the artist broke his thumb last year.

Phelan posted hundreds of monochrome images of hands that have a Goth/Emo/, LOVE/ DEATH sensibility, in what the artist describes himself as a “convalescence activity.” Initially read as an explicit sexual gesture, the title 'HANDJOB' is transformed into what could be diagnosed as a narcissistic compulsion, or self-imposed torture, to archive Phelan’s own temporary disability in the gallery. But the creative results at Oonagh Young gallery are anything but autoerotic: the job-at-hand is job-shared amongst five of the artist’s friends, who, in recent times, have coincidentally played with, or suggested the presence of the hand in their art practices.




It was the Butler with the Candlestick

in the Library


14 March - 26 April_2013_

Oonagh Young Gallery_Dublin_

Handjob: When one person stimulates another person’s penis with their hand, usually resulting in ejaculation. []

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