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Deep Deep Pepsi is Anissa Mack’s third solo exhibition at Laurel Gitlen. A humorous show, it could be called “Lowered Expectations,” sung like a jingle. Thematically linked to Mack’s previous projects involving county fairs and tokens of Americana, Deep Deep Pepsi is rich in shiny surfaces, embodying cheap gratification and provisional fulfillment (i.e., you take what you can get.)
The show mostly comprises objects like readymade mylar balloons, hand silkscreened mirrors, and fabricated cast sculptures, but Mack’s video, Tubs of Fun, lays out the pattern. In the video, news anchors report on a gullible man who played a carnival game in hopes of winning an X-Box. Instead, he wins an unwieldy stuffed Rasta’ banana. He also loses his life savings. It’s $2,600. But the joke is on the news viewers who tuned in for useful news information, and instead got suckered into watching a grinning banana.
Bouquets of inflated mylar dolphins fill the main gallery space. Unlike their mylar kin of the “Happy Birthday!” or “It’s a Boy!” varieties, these dolphins have no porpoise – er, “purpose.” Perhaps prizes from an unspecified county fair, their appeal will be short-lived against the fickle attention spans of their bearers, or the inevitable deflation that will flatten them before next weekend.
But the possibilities expand when we consider how the artist has installed an audio recording of dolphin chatter. Could these balloons here function as a reminder that nature yields no substitutes, no matter how persistently we try to approximate it, and that such attempts are pathetically bound to fail? Indeed, no living dolphin would mistake these for its peers. And the installation mocks the fantasy that dolphins could connect with us (in any profound way) – as is often fabled. It would be as crude as sex with an inflatable doll.
Smashed jack-o-lanterns and cast corn dogs further isolate and freeze our cycles of holidays, festivals, and rituals. And while every festival should champion a beverage, Mack focuses on the “innovation” of deep fried Pepsi. This is, aspirationally, an alchemical transubstantiation – a deep fried liquid – but it’s also a concession by its consumers: because why not Coke?