Two days ago I said I’d return to the current show in the NCAD Gallery. I’ve already written about the Molly Mishkas half of the show there – here. The umbrella title for the exhibition is The Social Contract, and Logan McLain is the other artist in it.

McLain’s work is very dextrous in the use of embroidery, stitching and the like to build up a series of linked vignettes on the state of Irish society. A typical-enough example of the work would be the representation he has of a one-cent coin – only the ‘Cent’ embossed on  the coin is replaced by ‘Spent’. In another piece, a hoodie is emblazoned on the front with ‘scumbro’ instead of ‘umbro’.

This appears, therefore, to be art with a point. I was arguing two days ago that interesting contemporary art has conceptual complexity as one of its hallmarks. Where does this leave artworks with a point? In limbo, I suspect, because the point of having a point is to reduce conceptual complexity to a defined, uncomplex position. It’s having a point that tends to make much politically motivated art ineffectual as art (it’s a totally separate question of how effective it is politically). In contrast, good graphic design is often good because it very efficiently gets its point across.[1]

So the Logan McLain part of The Social Contract left me pondering. Perhaps it is because I’m not making the intellectual leap between the imagery and the use of embroidery – which leaves me with an extra quandary: there’s a dimension to the works that I may not be getting, and perhaps it is in that dimension that sufficient conceptual complexity lies concealed from me.

[1] Remember the Benetton ads by Oliviero Toscani some years ago? It was very hard to understand what the point of them was – they were conceptually complex – and the art establishment, for want of a better term, loved them.
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