Two recent shows had me genuinely laughing out loud throughout the gallery. The first was Mike's World at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and the second was Bill Wood's Business at the International Center of Photography in New York. I saw Mike's World on a Sunday afternoon, and Bill Wood's Business two days later, and while these shows are completely different in presentation, they are amazingly similar as well.

Mike's World is a mid-career survey of three decades worth of output from artist Michael Smith, including video, TV, puppet shows, and installations....including work with many collaborators over those years such as Joshua White, William Wegman, and others. This is a hilarious tongue in cheek look at chasing the American Dream during the 70's and 80's, including a failed Disco Lighting business called Mus-co, reproduced exactly as it appeared in it's final days, a new age wellness centre called QuinQuag("I look to the horizon and I see the future"), a government approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar, fully replicated complete with detailed architectural drawings and sketches, and archival footage of Mike's public access television show Interstitial: "a show about art for artists and people interested in art".. There is so much to see, a floor plan is provided to help navigate the various displays. This is one of the most inventive and insanely creative shows I have ever seen.

Two days later I went to ICP to see Heavy Light: Recent Photography & Video from Japan, and found the Bill Wood's Business exhibit on the lower level. Bill Wood owned a successful photography business in Fort Worth, Texas from the late 1930's until his death in 1973. This show is curated by Diane Keaton and Marvin Heiferman, and is presented as hundreds of closely assembled 8 X 10 black and white photographs depicting a slice of Americana via Forth Worth, Texas in the late 1950's. The sheer variety of subjects ranging from morbid to preposterous is jaw dropping and laugh inducing. There are subtleties and repetitions here that can only be appreciated by a third or fourth tour around the room.

Mike's World

Bill Wood's Business

Bill Wood's Review in Village Voice
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