Dan Lydersen’s pieces, on display at the Jack Fischer Gallery through November 17th, are a look into a funhouse world that is disturbing in its familiarity. In Soft Serve, a baby is tormented by a doll-faced brute of a child blown up to Teletubby proportions. Clad in a onesie and costumed like an amusement park character, he/she/it delivers a soaking of milk directly to the eyes of the victim who is surrounded by rubber representations of junk food. The event plays out amongst the concession stands of a Candy Land heaven, where the clouds pile up in cotton candy billows. Lydersen’s precise observation of the nightmarish in artificial creations meant to transport us to ecstasies of fantasy and consumption are what makes the scene so unsettling despite the pastel and crayola palette. The frozen expression of the ice cream character, the fact that it’s meant to represent a toddler despite the possibility of being an adult in a costume; the bulging eyes on the rubber chew toy hamburger; the pigeons littering this floating landscape of dessert make one gag like you’re suffocating in a quicksand of dirty granulated sugar.
Little Lamb makes explicit the connection between signs and symbols that through generations of reinterpretation and redesign have been torn from their contexts. The rosy-faced child is decked out like Annie Oakley, but grasps a laser tag gun and glove and sports a garishly colored foam hat. The novelty head gear and accompanying oversized hand with jutting index finger are sporting event staples. But cowboy regalia and pistols are resurrected relics of a profession rooted in displaced realities: the mass ranching and slaughter of beasts for food. Laid bare for your inspection is a cut of meat, which one of the gentle lambs is comparing to his hind leg. Lydersen extends the artificial to its absurd end point, which really is just a juxtaposition of the bizarre ways we emphasize aspects of objects nearly out of recognition contrasted with our own notions of what is real. The fact that we have crafted many of these reinterpretations with children in mind, the pistols that send bullets of harmless light, hamburger friends dying to be eaten, disembodied Mickey Mouse head mylar balloons, made me wince, yet reminding us of that strangeness is what Lydersen does best.