Marcus Cain's Crystal Blue Persuasion sparks the exhibition's energetic tone. The multicolored tape-paper-and-paint wall installation commands the space. Cain borrows its title from Tommy James and the Shondells' 1969 pop hit; whether it's a love-your-brother hymn or a drug anthem, the song makes you feel something sweet, and Cain's installation has a similar palliative effect. Its vivid hues and textures and its sheer monumentality it's bigger than 14 feet by 16 feet lure viewers closer to the intricate pattern and design. Like the song, this piece just feels good.
Egawa + Zbryk produce similarly optimistic works, but only one of the two satisfies, almost. In "String Thing," the artists activate an overhead space with a three-dimensional yarn installation that stretches from wall to ceiling.
Leo Esquival's "Lyook in Yer Heart" extends the exhibition's optimism. In this sculptural pillow, Esquival leaves an indentation, suggesting the absent, and perhaps loved, body. He has also painted it with text about God and a beautifully limned brain, implying the spiritual and the physical, the sacred and the profane, that coexist within our bodies, absent and present.
Photography's glossy surface reflects social, economic and personal histories, and Beniah Leuschke and Mike Sinclair also understand its performative function. Leuschke's "Road Does Not End" documents a public performance in which he spelled out "road does not end" with Post-it Notes on an unilluminated LED highway sign and photographed it on the highway. The work gathers us into his sweet promise who doesn't want to think we can go on forever? Leuschke presents the photographs on a series of simple commemorative plates lined up on a black shelf that rounds a corner near the gallery's workaday sinks. There, three and a half plates footnote the piece by reminding us that the road might not end, but our car trip will with an orange boot clamped to its wheels. The piece is funny and smart and conceptually whole.
Sinclair's large group of photographs from 1980 through 2006 also document performances. Shooting all over the Midwest and beyond, Sinclair has recorded carnivals, fairs and other public places and the people who mill around in them. Whether it's a simple county fair or an economic behemoth such as Branson or Cabela's, Sinclair understands that the dynamic of people interacting in public spaces creates a spectacle of wealth, poverty and all the remarkable things in between.
Like everything and everybody, Carrousel can be dark. Ed Grimes and James Trotter examine the grotesqueries that emerge from dark spaces. In Grimes' photographs, bloodied fowl wings and other macabre images float inert on black ground, their isolation perhaps suggesting subconscious and sinister, free-floating thoughts.
Whereas Trotter's cartoonlike work seems, at first blush, merry and benign, it keenly embodies the lively and guttural comedy of life lived full-throttle, often in the margins.