VISUAL ARTS ‌ Evil Art 

Underground artists rock the Village Tavern with a Cheap and Free Art Show

It's 06.06.06 in the Crickentree Village strip mall, Mt. Pleasant, and Omen remakers Twentieth Century Fox aren't the only ones capitalizing on the devilish date. At the Village Tavern, 10 local artists have marked the number of the beast on their calendars for a single, unforgettable evening of evil art that threatens to poison the souls of those who see it with a heady brew of screenprints, posters, and stage-shaking punk rock.

The hit-and-run Cheap and Free Art Show's the delinquent brainchild of Mark Johnson and John Pundt, who's been needling Spoleto organizers with his "I'm Lovin' It" posters that compare the bland branding of Nike and McDonald's with Charleston's grand annual arts festival. Although co-organizer Johnson doesn't hang any of his work in the Tavern, he's helped to put the exhibition together at a hasty pace to catch the too-bad-to-be-true date, barely negotiating a scheduling détente with the coordinators of the Tavern's Tuesday Trivia Night. He's on hand to distribute "free shit" to visitors — mostly posters by Pete McDonough and screenprints by Pundt and Lynette McDonough.

Next to the exceptional pile of prints are a cabbage-patchful of Lynette's devilish dolls, each with her own keepsake coffin to rest in. If Ring director Hideo Nakata made the next Chucky sequel, these little ladies would be the perfect stars. With their soulless eyes and crusty crinoline dresses, the uncute constructions look ready to slay sleeping moppets at the drop of a bonnet.

Inside the Tavern, pool players wisely keep their backs to black-and-white close-up shots of the dolls, as well as other disturbing images that could easily fuck up their game. McDonough also contributes thick-canvassed paintings to the show, honoring sideshow freaks in muted reds on dark-colored backgrounds.

Farther along the wall, Pete McDonough's poster art for underground rock band Electric Frankenstein continues the freakish motif. With simple, colorful graphics he melds movie and comic book cover homages with his own trademark style. Right beside the shock rock pix are an image taken from a meticulously hand-cut C-3PO stencil by Esad (a.k.a. Parker Nelson) and brooding monochrome shots of a handgun on a turntable courtesy of Eleazar Cruz.

Most of the art's hung with bulldog clips, pinned to flimsy 4x8' boards that vibrate like flotsam in the wake of Motormouth Mabel's live punk rock. The band members play Misfits and Pixies covers, don Mexican wrestler masks, hump beer cans, and threaten to self-destruct at midnight. And why not? Who says all art receptions should include wine, cheese, and violins?

"Who made up the rules?" asks Pundt, brandishing a pitcher of beer over the devil dolls. "Who says an art show should go a certain way? We've got to take care of the art, sure, but other than that, why not have some fun?"

Philip Hyman agrees, creating accessible new work for what Pundt describes as "a working man's art show." In less than eight hours, Hyman's constructed a half-scale standee of RoboCheney, a militaristic presidential candidate on caterpillar tracks with bosom bazookas and a facial expression that says, "Vote for me in '08 — or else." Hyman also brings an IMAX astronaut (used to accompany the theater's Magnificent Desolation screenings), trippy robot silhouettes on canvas, and skewed depictions of Elvis and Bettie Page. His paintings in the Tavern are shrewdly juxtaposed with more Presley pieces by Jen Sample. Both artists play with the potent flexibility of icons — from The Pelvis to Li'l Bow Wow, symbolized stars seem to retain their power and recognition whether they're depicted as negative impressions or as twisted carny versions of themselves. Even Elvis' outline is instantly recognizable.

Surrounded by more alternative art by Geoff Cormier, Nic Lauretano, Jeni Telles, and Tobias Denney, the band gets out alive and the art show does its evil job without incurring the wrath of God or, worse still, the trivia night coordinators. Energized by some art sales and the distribution of plenty of prints, Pundt plans to nurture and expand his loosely connected collective. On the strength of The Cheap and Free Art Show, the omens are good.


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