I think the Supreme Buddha himself would approve of Jeffrey Wisniewski’s approach to art, in which no material is too settled in its form (that’s what woodchippers are for, apparently) or beholden to consumer culture (electronics, meet deconstruction; deconstruction, meet repurpose). For his Artpace Hudson (Show)Room installation, the artist has adapted motion-capture skills he picked up in Hollywood to animate a conflicted Buddha’s internal wrestling match — you can relate, can’t you? The figures are stout even by Buddha standards, with Sumo-grade tushes and pufferfish double chins that squeeze their lips into mischievous and enigmatic Mona Lisa smiles. It’s cathartic to watch them grapple and let your mind wander: the allegory is equally applicable to global superpowers (reportedly one of the artist’s inspirations), relationships, and personal struggles.
The sculptures scattered throughout the room look like the relics of castaways, an idea planted maybe by the vignette at the back of the room, which is made of a dented and scraped airplane engine and data recorders, and a wire figure who appears to be tumbling through the air or performing a one-armed handstand on one of the orange boxes. Skulls strung like totems or bunting on a teepee-like frame alongside modern detritus set the stage for a tale of primitive urges untethered from the anchor of civilization. But the potential darkness of those scenarios is undercut by a weird and hilarous assembly that includes a lifesize stuffed animal, an uncomfortably placed moose antler, and a giant Christmas ornament. Maybe Dorothy’s twister hit the Polar Express on its way to Kansas? In Wisniewski’s hands, that’s a happy accident.
The Battle of the Buddha. Through January 3, 2010. Reception 6:30-8 p.m. October 22. Artpace, (210) 212-4900, artpace.org.