6th July 2007 — 18th August 2007
Haunch of Venison is not a pub. It is a very smart, three storey
gallery at the end of a tiny yard. I found it by printing a map from
streetmap.co.uk, going to the arrow and spiralling slowly outwards
asking everyone I saw that looked like they might know. It was a
rubbish technique that saw me arrive at the show damp and irritated. I
cheered up though, partly because the show is excellent and then
because it stopped raining.
This show is unlike the works that made Shovlin's name, the carefully fabricated fictions that were the pictures and cuttings of Naomi V. Jelish and Lustfaust. Foreigner were a real band, Kaczynski was a real Unabomber and Mexico City, 1968 was a real Olympics but he continues to investigate the themes of nostalgia, history and documentation.
These artworks are individual pieces, each one a stand-alone work although many are based around the record collections of his parents. Near the front door two TVs sit on the ground side by side and on them Shovlin's Mum and Dad talk their way through a stack of their favourite records. This is not an easy view: the voices are difficult to hear and squatting in front of them is uncomfortable. It is not really necessary to watch them, they provide a context for the show but we don't need to know Mr. Shovlin (senior)'s view on Meatloaf. As his parents spoke about the same album on different screens, from different houses I wondered who was holding the one they'd bought together. Nostalgia is never far from loss and thus the title of the show: A Dream Deferred.
A series of 1970s and 1980s record covers are remade in the style of heavy-weight American artists. A three-colour Hall and Oats back cover becomes a three canvas Ellsworth Kelly and De Kooning does Chicago. I'm sure these were fun to design and make, their value as artwork is questionable but as an artquiz they are terrific.
On the first floor a text piece details some of the official 'flag etiquette' for the Stars and Stripes. A flag that 'is no longer fit for display' should be burnt, is a rule that is rigidly adhered to across the globe with gusto. For 10 points Franklin Gothic is a font associated with which artist?
Nearby is 'Boundary Functions' a framed map of the world with notations from the CIA World Factbook screen-printed onto the glass. These tell us that Scotland is slightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts and Greenland is three times the size of Texas.
On the floor is a stack of 2000 prints (5 points) depicting the 187 victims of Jason in the Friday the 13th series, starting with poor Annie, who had her throat slit with a hunting knife in 1980 and ending with Trey, who was stabbed with a machete and folded in half in a bed in 2003.
Up on the top floor 'replica of a lost original' is four reproductions of letters to Ted 'Unabomber' Kaczynski in prison asking for interviews. All have their own angle; from 'I've got a cabin' to 'same high-school', all failed.
The second map of the exhibition shows the USA with the birthplaces of all the playboy centrefolds marked. No photo just name, the month they appeared and their dream. Thus we can learn that neither North nor South Dakota has ever produced a centrefold and ranches make regular appearances in the dream section. Though I was rather taken with Kaln Olson (August 1997) who wanted to succeed as a model and actress partly to show Arkansas she could do it. She did do it too, and founded the Playboy Extreme Team to boot (they go cross-country running and stuff). Sadly Gail Olson (August 1968) failed to become an astronaut but Stella Stevens (January 1960) stared in Girls! Girls! Girls! With Elvis Presley despite not understanding the question and answering 'Yes!' No dream deferred there.