Digital montages by Simmons and Burke dazzle at Michael Kohn
Simmons and Burke have mashed and montaged digital data for a half-dozen years, working like naturalists to comb the web for denatured specimens of media and pop culture. The prosaic glut of data at their (and our) disposal is both their subject and their raw material. They are maximalists, collecting, cataloguing and combining culled imagery in prints of dazzling slickness.
In their newest work at Michael Kohn, they assume the naturalist role with literal fervor. Their floor-to-ceiling wallpaper is densely striped with fine-print Latin and common plant names. In "U.S. Plant Collection Palette," the spectacular 99-by-159-inch centerpiece of the show, they arrange photographed and drawn images of leaves, blossoms, fruits, thistles and stems in a tight mosaic. Every specimen is seen with maximum clarity and vibrancy against a black ground, akin to the hallucinogenic extravaganzas of Fred Tomaselli. The L.A.-based pair's meticulous precision and love of excess can push their work into the realm of sterile decoration (something the entire front gallery of prints succumbs to), but this image is exuberant, celebratory, heartfelt.
There is, in fact, a newly broad emotional range in the work here. A recording of the artists reciting plant and flower names makes up a wry aural bouquet, a surprisingly captivating "Still Life." Tenderness of a distinctly analog sort makes a welcome appearance, too, in three montages of specimen collection envelopes, humble little receptacles, folded by hand, for evidence gleaned by hand.
By Leah Ollman