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The Art Guys Present Home on the Range cover photo

The Art Guys Present Home on the Range 2009

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Microcinema International/Microcinema DVD, 1636 Bush St., Suite #2, SF, CA 94109; 415-447-9750
Produced by Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing
Directed by Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing
DVD, color, 88 min.

Art, Art Education, Humor, Media Studies, Popular Culture, Theater

Date Entered: 01/12/2010

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

At its broadest, art could be described as an entity that is endowed by those who make it with a significant degree of aesthetic interest. Singular definitions are controversial, however, and the work of the Art Guys adds further fuel to that fire. In this 2-disc set, the Art Guys - Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing, two former classmates from the University of Houston – offer an anthology of their performance and installation pieces from 1984-2008. Each piece is certainly demonstrates an intentional degree of visual significance and many have been presented at various contemporary art museums around the country. However, whether it’s art or not must be a conclusion drawn by individual viewers.

Disc 1, titled Home on the Range, includes more than 30 very short video pieces. Organized under the general headings Early Video Experiments, Experiments in Public Performances, Stage Performances, and Video Experiments, the works represented range from under one minute to 6 minutes in length. While a few of these pieces are experimental abstract or installation art, the majority are in the performance genre. Viewers see (and hear) coins rolling down glass tubes as well as the Art Guys sitting at a Denny’s restaurant, growing facial hair or working at a convenience store. Characterized by the use of everyday things and humor, the selected works are sometimes unique and inventive visual media and at other times seemingly just ridiculous.

Disc 2 is a live concert titled Nothing to It: An Evening of Itty Bitty Witty Ditties, filmed at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts in May, 2008. The Art Guys, and others, perform several of their more well-known pieces, seen in the first DVD in this set, as well as others that are world premiers. Opening with Kiss Piece, the artists greet and kiss each audience member. Other performed pieces include wrapping the audience in shipping tape, group beer drinking and an interpretative dance that celebrates plywood.

The motivation of making experimental art accessible to general audiences is creative and entertaining. Inspired by the absurdist schools of Dada and Fluxus, however, the work of the Art Guys may also elicit responses similar to the title of one of their short pieces, “Huh?”