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A perfect thesis for Olaf Breuning's current exhibition at Metro Pictures greets one at the gallery's entrance: several vinyl versions of the artist's name, in different fonts, have been crossed out and appended with the statement, "...at least I tried."  The failure to achieve a perfect consonance of authorial name and aesthetic, and the pathetic comedy played out in the multiplication and dismissal of alternatives, carries throughout the exhibition's various bodies of work, which collectively offer a veritable symptomatology of cultural consumption in the networked age. Six white, ceramic busts form vaguely biomorphic bases for "heads" like The Big Challenge (all works 2008), a scale balancing a bucket of plastic boobs and a stack of books, and the Koonsian collection of primary color PVC gloves that comprise the visage of Bird Dog. Giant C-prints alternate between irreverent portraits, like that of a man balancing tiers of filled shot glasses with hands, feet, and nose (Impossible Balance Act), and performative and digital interventions into landscapes. Dozens of smoke bombs yield a painterly action, in Smoke Bombs, while Fire and Why Can't You Not Be Nice With Nature? foreground global concerns, the former depicting a NYC street scene overlaid with hundreds of digitized fire effects, and the latter a bucolic landscape interrupted by an airborne flock of birds, arranged into the letters of the image's title. Over forty of the artist's "Adderall Series" drawings fill every conceivable bit of remaining wall space, frequently jabbing at history and politics with a comparably dumb and unsettling humor to that of the photographs. An oil well sprouts and spouts from a head (More Oil More Oil), or the Chinese Wall surrounds a tiny White House (Chinese Wall), and we chuckle, partly to mask our unease. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Olaf Breuning, Helicopter Hair, 2008

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