Joe Fletcher Orr – Under The Thumb, The International 3, Salford

Text by Richard Hughes

Like meeting a depressed clown; “Jokes Sold Here” (blazoned on the gallery door) encourages the viewer to immediately experience some kind of resignation of fate, as though all good things will come to an end before they have even begun.

How are we supposed to view the work within Joe Fletcher Orr’s first solo show, Under The Thumb – Is Orr inviting us into a distasteful array of meaningless punch lines or his he using a melancholic humour to comment on the art world? From persuading The directors of the Show to Wear Large ’Go Joe’ foam hands and seemingly competing for attention, to standing his size 12’s into a amorphous pile off shit, Orr seems too purposefully reduce himself and his work in order to reduce the stature of the artist. He is consciously placing himself at the mercy of jokes; pointing fingers and tumbleweed awkwardness.

Born In Liverpool, Orr acknowledges his heritage, his upbringing in Birkenhead and in particular his relationship with his Father, working on a stall selling rugs. Displayed in The Gallery is ‘Orranorco’ (2014), Orr’s Father’s idea of a perfect rug. Only the perfect Rug has not turned up – it must be on a shipment somewhere on its way from India, Bangladesh or China.  We can only imagine the artist’s Father’s glorious idea of the rug, and instead we are presented with a ‘will do’ object that emphasises the mundane unromantic realties of life. It acts as a portrait, of Orr’s own social status and how decisions made by his Father determine his identity, a universal theme shown in a very specific, personal way.

Orr is witty, shining a mocking mirror on contemporary society, by placing himself within the work by using clever titles in line with interesting choices of material. “Streaker” is the artist’s silhouette bronzed upon the white gallery wall using a spray tan gun. A performance carried out up and down the country on a Friday night, seemingly smudging identity on to the surface of skin. By being so ‘involved’ within the work Orr is the protagonist, investigating social concepts and finding the comical qualities of our insecurities.

This is a wonderfully depressing show that involves both humour and melancholy, leaving the viewer with an ‘oh well’ shrug of the shoulders and a quiet sigh of acceptance of the reality of the everyday.

Joe Fletcher Orr – Under The Thumb continues at The International 3, Salford until 31 October 2014.

Richard Hughes is an artist based in Manchester.

Published 27.10.2014 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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