On the Upper East Side, nestled among the latest designer fashion houses and trendy Instagrammable cafes, lies a goldmine of unpretentious childhood nostalgia hidden inside the Gagosian’s pristine Madison Avenue gallery. Harmony Korine’s new solo show, BLOCKBUSTER, features a series of seventeen paintings made entirely out of distorted VHS tapes. “Over ten years ago I heard about a Blockbuster video store going out of business in Nashville. I bought all the videos in the store from them,” explains Korine in his press release. “There is only one Blockbuster left in the world now. The VHS is nearly obsolete, lost in the fog of analog. We are heading into something new.”
The works themselves feel vibrant, messy, playful, crude, silly and a little somber all at once. Some tapes are stripped of their covers, completely painted over and serve as color fields. Others have kept their sleeves and were subjected to various doodles or deformities. Many have been painted with a reoccurring figure character reminiscent of a Lego, ghost, or the Grateful Dead’s dancing bears. Only twice have the tapes been left completely blank. One, an un-painted black rectangle, and two, a distinctly orange VHS “Rugrats Bedtime Bash.” That orange! Nickelodeon Orange. It hits your sensory memory like a Lunchables pizza box on the bus ride to second grade. And just like Lunchables, Korine’s show seems to be devoid of any real substance yet deliciously addictive nonetheless.
It is quite a treat to scan the paintings and find what has been done to all your favorite films. The Oscar winners, trashy rom-coms and cult classics are all given the same treatment, rescued from their impending obsolescence and re-appropriated into some sort of democratic act of vandalization. In the end, Korine seems to say, perhaps we are all just Kids (1995) who grow up to be Spring Breakers (2012).
Harmony Korine’s BLOCKBUSTER will be on view at Gagosian’s 976 Madison Avenue gallery now through October 27th.