With frat-boy-like, testosterone-driven intensity, artist Hubert Dobler has raced his Honda CB550 Four motorbike around the inside of Jack the Pelican Presents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In addition to some gentle descriptive nudging from the press release, we know this from the evidence on the temporary floor – carefully constructed for the exhibition to serve as both a protection for the gallery floor’s original surface, and more importantly as a visual record of Dobler’s performative moto-mischief.

Accompanying the skid marks, scrapes, and oil drippings that form the rowdily-made race track are a row of gasoline cans, an installation of a bed with the motorcycle resting peacefully with its headlight on, and a small video installation assembled nearby. The video (which can be viewed on the gallery's website) is a repetitive shot of the unmanned bike, motor running, chained to a warehouse ceiling by its handle bars, with the force of the spinning rear wheel propelling the bike violently in a centrifugal back, forth and around.

The video is not without its allure, although what was probably intended as a maniacally austere, beast-like transformation, comes off instead as obnoxiously boyish and somewhat silly (as does the cutesy bike-in-bed). The strongest visual element of the exhibition is the marks on the floor. Reminiscent of the equally man-centric, abstract expressionist tradition of slashing and splashing, they are the (oddly enough) aesthetically pleasing result of bike-as-paintbrush.

In his “symbolic adventure,” Dobler has declared an intention to create “a timely meditation on the American romance with aggressive power.” A serious concept indeed, and yet a dominant sense of lighthearted frivolity persists. Instead of revealing the menacing danger of power-lust, Dobler’s installation closer approaches a self-indicting lack of engagement. With a title like Gasoline and a proposed meditation on “aggressive power,” surely something more critically committed could have been imagined.

top image: still of
Bull Video, courtesy of Jack the Pelican Presents [487 Driggs bet. N 9th and N 10th, Brooklyn] // Hubert Dobler’s Gasoline is at Jack the Pelican Presents from June 2 – July 2