Simmons & Burke's newest at Kohn: Digital collages that dazzle and daunt
Simmons & Burke's newest works at Kohn throb with internal contradiction. Each of the eight huge prints dazzles and daunts. The artists, based in L.A., make their elaborate digital collages with surgical precision and sophistication, but the visual impact of what results has the blunt force of a hammer.
For this series, they created templates based on details from works in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, then filled in those forms (of trees, mostly) with thousands of small images stitched together seamlessly.
Snippets of product labels, movie posters, lace patterns, old maps and prints, comic books, video game screens, old master paintings and more pack each scene with a density that nearly overwhelms its legibility. The templates end up feeling like an inconsequential conceit, a bare bit of structure to rein in the chaos. An image like "Cognac X.O.," shows rare and welcome restraint by asserting a figure/ground distinction through the contrast of black and white and color.
For all their crisp conception and execution, the pieces feel more slippery than those Case Simmons and Andrew Burke have made in the past. There is not enough intentionality to compensate for their uniform look and feel, the homogeneous texture that comes from pressing diverse parts into the service of the slick, digitized whole.
The works are also slippery in a more psychologically demanding way, which ends up being the most interesting thing about them. Their optical splendor has irresistible appeal, but in the course of getting seduced, our senses feel blunted rather than heightened.
Simmons & Burke exaggerate and exploit the condition of the cultural moment, with its quick-cut, relentless image flow, but in this body of work they fail to challenge it, or better yet, to transcend it.