“I’m always looking for relationships between my existence and total existence, connections between here and elsewhere”.

-Mariko Mori

Yoko Molotov is recognized locally as a rather prolific artist whose confessional, dystopian, and gender-fluid drawings are a recognizable feature of Louisville’s online landscape. Typically pulling from irony, humor, horror, and kawaii, Molotov typically creates cartoonish narratives that are both easily recognized and self-referential. Molotov’s solo exhibition Sweet Dreams at Sheherazade features six new panoramic digital drawings inspired by surrealist automatism, as well as a multimedia collaboration with Joe Frey. Frey’s electronic plotter machine translated her images into sound during a performance at the opening reception.  A film of that performance is on display via a small television that is propped up to the glass of the gallery’s front window for the remainder of the exhibition. For sake of spacial reference, Sheherazade is an experimental, artist-run gallery (curated by Julie Leidner) located out of a garage within the Old Louisville neighborhood. The garage has been outfitted with a large, window paned garage door leaving the gallery to be open and closed simultaneously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Leidner’s curatorial goal in developing this space is situated so that local community members (regardless of awareness or understanding of contemporary art) can consume whatever work is inside, without pretense of entry.

Molotov’s six panels consisted of curvilinear, sugary, cloud-like imagery, and sustained color palettes of lavender, teals, tangerines, sherbets, lemon chiffons, and deeper teals. Accompanying these drawings were the sound response recordings, actively transcribed during the opening reception. The hyperbolic soundscape that was afforded from Joe Frey’s electronic plotter machine was a bizarre and appropriate accompaniment to these large format digital drawings. Together, the audience was pushed into an experience akin to an acid trip that they didn’t sign up for, but were pleased to be a part of, once informed of the consumption. There is an innocent, or ironic, sexuality to the works that is nestled in their cloudy color palette and dreamy approach. To add, ironically, there is a lot of humanity in an exhibition that feels like a post-internet dream space. It’s digitally dreamy.

But Yoko Molotov is hard to take seriously, because they don’t take themselves seriously— or at least that’s their projected identity— their Nihilism prohibits them from taking any rhetoric or aesthetic perspective, thus leaving their audience to assume that the purpose of the work is either for the sake of disillusion or it’s, in fact, satirical. Which brings me to my biggest question for the artist: If you are as nihilistic as you project, what is the inherent point in making work that references surrealist automatism? What is the purpose in creating work that studies the autonomies of the self or spirit or soul or whatever?  If life is meaningless, why study it? Don’t get me wrong, these questions are not to imply that the show wasn’t interesting / pleasurable / successful. It was all of the above. I’m simply saying that there was a lack of intent that I found confusing, which, could have absolutely been intentional. I just want to be in on the joke, and I’m clearly not.

The drawings breathe of kawaii, jo-ha-kyu, and other Japanese contemporary aesthetics, as well as western graffitti. Immediately, two artists come to mind: Sam3 (Spain) and Mariko Mori (Japan). In fact, it’s a quote by Mori (stated as a preface to this review) that I believe is a productive lens in which to consume Molotov’s exhibition. The question relates to Molotov’s reception of the world, the projection of unconscious consideration of that world, and the visual manifestation of her reality that sits firmly in a small garage gallery in Louisville, Kentucky. I thank her for bringing us in on the experience.

As a visual artist Yoko Molotov has exhibited work at Land of Tomorrow in Louisville and Lexington, Gallery K, and the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, in addition to self-publishing multiple art books including GIRLS, What It’s Like to See Them, and Scratch Fights. As a musician, Molotov has played in projects such as Harpy, Sweatermeat, and Tycoon$ of Teen.

The exhibition will be installed, with a video loop running, at Sheherazade until April 14th, 2018. The gallery is open / not open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

–Megan Bickel

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