It's spelled out in huge, black, serif letters in the upper-right corner of the one-room gallery, only inches away from the nearest artwork. Eileen Garry, the museum's director, says the gigantic font is necessary because many gallerygoers have special needs. And although the letters are distracting, they call attention to the fact that the show's premise is particularly appropriate in this venue.
Along with Borderland at the Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art (see last week's Art Beat), Boundary Creatures gets its name from The Grotesque in Modern Art, a collection of essays edited by University of Missouri-Kansas City art historian Francis Connelly. "The grotesque does not exist except in relation to a boundary, convention or expectation," she writes. "The grotesque is defined by what it does to boundaries, merging, overflowing, destabilizing them."
The Epsten Gallery itself is a boundary creature: a fine-art gallery on the campus of a nursing home. It's not unusual for visitors who are looking at a show to hear shouts of "Bingo!" drifting from down the hall.
Curator James Brinsfield bases the exhibit on two interpretations of boundary creatures' behavior. The first concentrates on such a creature's sly tendency to borrow or re-create real-life imagery. This is perfectly exemplified by the work of Kaz Oshiro, whose "Marshall Amp (freak)" appears to be a Marshall guitar amplifier. A look at its backside, however, reveals that it's made of canvas on a wooden frame and painted to look like an amp. Oshiro adds band stickers and knobs to complete the effect. Also on display is Oshiro's fast-food-restaurant trash bin, re-created with convincing detail -- all the way down to the cheesy fake woodgrain and the "Thank You" printed on the flap in a 1970s Western-inspired font.
Brinsfield's second interpretation examines a boundary creature's state of continuous morphing, changing and adapting. In Lynus Young's installation, dozens of small drawings and spray paintings on paper cover an entire gallery corner like a fungus, climbing the wall until it reaches the ceiling. With its garish color scheme and seemingly haphazard composition, Young's piece easily fits the everyday definition of the grotesque. It encroaches upon the white space of the gallery, feeling organic, imposing and unsettling.