SPRING ART SHOW 2020
THE HAPPY HOUSE
EXPLORING AMERICA’S OBSESSION WITH SELF-HELP CULTURE
Curated by Durden and Ray
Spring Break Art Fair
Los Angeles, CA
Feb. 14-16, 2020
This is the happy house
We're happy here in the happy house
To forget ourselves and pretend all's well.
There is no hell.
— Excerpt from Happy House by
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Durden and Ray presents The Happy House, an interdisciplinary exhibition at SPRING/BREAK Art Show LA that explores Americans’ obsession with self-help, amateur psychiatry, and the excessive search to self-optimize.
According to researchers at Columbia University, rates of depression and in the U.S. have increased 10.6 percent in the past decade, despite over 100 years of psychoanalysis and an overwhelming array of products, platitudes, and prescriptions to help quell the blues.
As the viewer enters The Happy House , they are met with an excessive amount of “uplifting” stimuli: walls festooned with bright yellow paper; a smiley face painting by Max Presneill; portraits of carefree socialites by Jorin Bossen; a furry floor installation and video by Sean Noyce; quiet urban landscape photographs by Curtis Stage; “word paintings” of consumer antidepressants by Steve Wolkoff; viscous portraits by Gul Cagin; playful cast porcelain balloon sculptures by Joe Davidson; and a mixed media cluster of inflatables, stuffed animals, platitudes, and tchotchkes by Alison Woods.
But just below the surface, a more sobering reality comes to the fore: the yellow walls are unnerving; the smiley face is a facade; the socialites appear fraught with angst; the video and voiceover are unsettling; the landscapes present a dystopic vision of Los Angeles; the words written in paint are overwhelming; the abstract portraits are disquieting; the cast porcelain balloons sag from their own weight; and the platitudes and tchotchkes nauseate with their sickly sweet interpretation of reality.
While the desire to improve oneself is generally considered a good thing, the endless cycle to optimize the body, mind and soul can sometimes exacerbate the problem, while failing to understand the root of unhappiness. The Happy House posits the viewer to take a second look at the motives behind America’s prescription for happiness.