Too Little Too Late: a Maximalist Wake for the American Nightmare

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Tucked at the end of sleepy, sun-soaked Cady’s Alley in Georgetown, von ammon co. is a pleasantly unpretentious approach to the “minimal” contemporary gallery space etched in recent public memory. A skylight breathes life into the stark black-and-white interior, suffusing an analog softness through an undulating interplay of light and shadow.

Remnants of Georgetown’s industrial past—exposed brick, a repurposed tree posing slyly among neighboring support beams, and even the stroll down the cobblestone alleyway to the gallery entrance—culminate in an authenticity and friendliness bereft from trendy “industrial” art spaces that alienate as much as they entice with their broody allure.

The space strikes a playful balance between leaning into the slightly jarring coldness of the typical modern gallery and unassuming old-fashioned charm that emphasizes the beguiling atmosphere of current offering Too Little Too Late, which closes Sunday, June 16th. The collaboration between Dinos Chapman and Jason Yates is a vivid, unsettling portrait of American life that harps on memories of our recent past to offer an ominous glimpse into our future.

Perhaps the gallery’s most maximalist exhibition to date, the title Too Little Too Late tritely captures the pitfalls of fanatic consumerism and the continual inability of American heroism to mask the fractured promise of ultimate freedom in the land of the brave, posing questions about the long-term viability of American optimism in the new millennium. The exhibition draws heavily from a malaise for the unique cultural sphere of LA—a city that is equal parts glamour and grime, where socialite luxury and suburban decay are head to head—the ideal lens to explore the tension between superficial beauty and underlying rot.

Dinos Chapman, "Faith," "Hope," and "Charity," all 2024, fiberglass, wigs, paint.
Dinos Chapman, "minderwertig kindergarten," 2024, IKEA children's table set, pyrography dimensions variable
The exhibition draws heavily from a malaise for the unique cultural sphere of LA—a city that is equal parts glamour and grime, where socialite luxury and suburban decay are head to head—the ideal lens to explore the tension between superficial beauty and underlying rot.
Ian Kibria

Chapman’s contributions revisit the transgressive sculptural practice that gained him notoriety as one of the Enfants Terribles in his native Britain. Using startlingly lifelike prosthetics to impose grotesque facial disfigurations onto deconstructed mannequins, his penchant for fantasy is ripe with the implication that truth is often stranger than fiction.

A new series is composed of severed heads mounted on spikes that have a fairy-tale-like quality. They gaze out at a hauntingly empty children’s play table set for seven, a nod to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Surreal distortions of scenes from the Disney film adaptation are engraved in the backrests as if left over from a nuclear disaster.

The injection of brutality and historical symbols of conquest into a dialogue between pieces that could have come out of a children’s story poses a critique against the misguided American valour that not only perpetuates militaristic cycles of oppression on a global scale but has failed to tangibly protect the innocence of its own children in a recent slew of domestic mass shootings. This is echoed by an assortment of sculptures made up of children’s water guns and assault weapons encased in mounds of glittery resin.

A color scheme recalling the bubblegum pop of the newly-vintage early 2000s casts these playthings and tools of mass violence with a candy-like sheen that parallels the veneer of innocence painted over a pathological attitude towards violence that underpins the fanaticism driving mass murder in contemporary America. The makeshift armory flanks another hyper-realistic sculpture.

Installation view
Dinos Chapman, "Prototypes," 2024, plastic, polyester resin, glitter, in twelve parts
Dinos Chapman, "Gwynplaine," 2024, fiberglass, paint, clothes, wig, bag, mirror

The seemingly innocuous work “Gwynplaine”—a sculpture of a little girl bearing a backpack—has the same off-putting, impish features as Chapman’s other figures, though hers are only revealed in the reflection of a mirror on the adjacent wall.

As the viewer peers over her shoulder, confronted by their own reflection alongside her malformed face, they are drawn into a disconcerting moment of self-recognition and complicity. They may also wonder if “Gwynplaine” herself is en-route to terrorize an imaginary classroom. Her disturbing reflection questions the illusion of comfort and safety pushed by suburban idealism, serving as a bridge to Jason Yates’ works lurking on the opposite wall.

The densely shelved sculptures composed of the detritus of American consumerism—garden gnomes, kitschy inspirational signs that read things like “love” and “dream”, holiday decorations—are entombed in a spotless coat of black enamel. Made up of found objects from thrift stores or discarded in landfills, these monochromatic assemblages are steeped in a nostalgia twisted by abandonment in decay.

Jason Yates, "Fuckity," 2022, ABS, chrome, mixed media and "Nothing About Pleasure," 2024, shelving, wood, found objects, acrylic paint
Jason Yates (L-R) "Nothing About Pleasure," "Stigma Pudding," "Volks Libido (Born to Fuck)," and "Sounds Great, Can't Wait," all 2024, shelving, wood, found objects, acrylic paint

They carry the somber air of lost aspirations evoked by Chapman’s “Gwynplaine” and the empty children’s table. The longer one tries to decipher individual objects on each shelving unit, the more biomorphic the works become. In a moment of overstimulation, the eye only sees an excess of waste, a sludge made up of the shadows of a nation that once thrived on optimism and now grapples with the weight of its own obsolescence.

The one commercial good Yates has not solidified as a reject with an oppressive black coating overlooks the rest as a silent sentinel. A chrome-plated troll with bushy black hair and a tail seems to celebrate the morose transformation of familiar suburban comforts into relics of a bygone era, mocking the shattered grandeur of the American Dream. He is reminiscent of an auctioneer at a foreclosure sale, candidly examining the plunder of a failed journey to prosperity.

The eerie convergence of fantasy and reality in Too Little Too Late offers a darkly humorous framework within which to dissect American culture and its apparent decline that is supercharged by the dichotomies of nostalgia and trend brought to mind by its paradoxically chic, yet inviting home at von ammon co.

Jason Yates, “Fuckity,” 2022, ABS, chrome, mixed media

All images courtesy of von ammon co.

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