Okay Mountain

Freight + Volume

Marie-Adele Moniot

Okay Mountain, Trailer, 2010; mixed media; courtesy the artists and Freight + Volume, New York

Puke 1, 2010; acrylic on canvas; 60 x 84 inches; courtesy the artists and Freight + Volume, New York

For Benefit Plate, Okay Mountain’s New York solo debut, the Austin-based collective offers an homage to the high art and lowly failures of customization. Despite the displacement of some of its members to metropolises like Chicago and Los Angeles, the team still holds tight to its Central Texas tailgating roots. This loyalty is evident in Benefit Plate, which dissects the highly individualized subculture of customized cars and food trucks through the views of multiple players.

The centerpiece of the show is Trailer, an ambitious installation that is part sports equipment storage cart and part Texas-style mobile kitchen. Okay Mountain tricked out an electric blue Ford trailer body with a precarious assemblage of sporty parts, including a football, punching bag, video games, tennis balls, baseballs, golf balls, skateboard, croquet mallet, baseball glove, dartboard and dice. Despite these “amenities” the wagon-cum-kiosk doesn’t seem very friendly to touch, let alone full-scale gaming. Instead, plopped inside a tiny gallery in Chelsea, it is a witty, static sculpture, a monument to F-U-N with an Austin trademark. But Trailer’s fun, sportsman side is literally just that—one side of the truck. The other half of the trailer is all about getting down to business—barbecue, naturally—and includes a grill/sink combo that looks perfectly legitimate but is more likely to produce fire mishaps than well-cooked steaks. Accordingly, the detailed setup comes complete with essential BBQ utensils like a jumbo-sized can opener.

Accompanying this spectacle are two large-scale paintings, Puke 1 and Puke 2, which cartoonishly depict highly kinetic floods of vomit cascading across backgrounds of picnic tablecloth patterning. Carried away by the pukewaters are the expected and the strange: a football, a 9-volt battery, bottle caps, pizza, sardines and a pacifier. Despite the bathroom humor, these paintings are less crude than clever. They stand as sly 2-D partners or endnotes to Trailer, revealing where its ode to fun ends up—as waste on the walls. They also read as more finished than the rough-and-tumble Trailer, which seems like ad nauseam work-in-progress by comparison.

By deliberately overwhelming—or bingeing on—Trailer’s fun/food combo, Okay Mountain is ribbing the idea of overcooked personal projects that often lose sight of practicality. But it’s not clear if the artists believe this excessive pile-on is really a bad thing. In the case of Trailer, does it matter that it doesn’t “work,” i.e., no one can tow it? Or cook on it? In fact, the more time I spend with the piece, the more I’m convinced that it is useful—to serve food, store equipment, or just hang out by. I’m so enamored by its excess—everything that makes it not work—that I start to believe it could work.

This may also be why my favorite part of the show is a modest drawing tucked away in the back of the gallery. Isometric Schematic Plan and Details is a sweetly sketched diagram of the front room’s extravaganza. After already viewing the end result, glimpsing the blueprint for Trailer is amusingly incongruous. Here’s the show’s true wink-wink, expressing the quaint idea that one could or would diagram something that appears so spontaneously compiled.

Marie-Adele Moniot is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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