The breadth of Trent Call’s artistic ability stretches so wide that compartmentalizing it into bite-size pieces may be the best solution to trying to absorb his creativity. Fortunately, his new show at the chameleon-like God Hates Robots does just that. The small venue pushes artists to be more selective in the work they show and in how they present it. Add to that the variety that gallery director Shon Taylor brings in and you’re assured of exhibitions unlike any other space in Salt Lake City. Trent Call makes use of this opportunity by bringing in work, titled Flim Flam, that he calls “a bunch of nonsense,” but which is in fact Call showing his unique style as only he can.
Call’s vibrant and crisp painting is displayed in a series of his now-familiar heads. Their expressions of amazement, grimacing smiles, and bulging eyes greet you upon entry like an audience to his more sculptural work on the facing wall. Vivid colors amplify the feeling of exuberance and even arousal at what they see. (This style also graces many of the painted walls throughout the city and by their inclusion gives us reason to go revisit those walls and question just what they too are looking at.)
That second wall, being constantly stared at by the hungry eyes of his paintings, presents a judiciously composed collection of objects indicative of Call’s unique humor. Of particular note is his adaption of a common paper-towel dispenser that has been altered to be an “Insult Dispenser.” As the paper rolls out, we’re given a sort of glossary of insults or, to be more precise, words that could be used as insults. It’s that “could be” aspect of the objects that becomes the core focus of the “nonsense” theme. So much of what you see could easily be something completely benign or even decorative, but becomes much more in the context of the show’s title.
Call’s artist statement gets to the heart of the matter by describing this notion as a commentary on the “present cultural moment of insults, posturing, and insincerity, the diversionary tactics used to undermine our confidence in reality.” The show becomes a mirror of sorts for that undermining of what is real and what we thought was real. Each object creates for us not only a challenge to our sense of value, but a somewhat stinging reminder that we’re all doing our best to hide from a culture of manipulation by altering our realities. We know we’re being deceived, but like the faces across the room, we’re still somehow shocked by the idea of it.
Flim Flam, work by Trent Call at God Hates Robots, SLC, through November 10.
David “HABBENINK” Habben is a Salt Lake City based illustrator and artist. He is currently working on an MFA at the University of Utah.