Shape Sifters

Pat Alexander and James Trotter have a lot in common. They’ve worked in all the same restaurants. They’re both DJs. They’re art-school dropouts. They like to collect stuff.

And they both make shapes float. That’s the first thing that stands out about the art they’ve displayed at the Telephone Booth (3319 Troost, 816-582-9812). Alexander’s half of the gallery is filled with pieces of paper tacked to the wall. Assembled in a cluster, they make a giant, amorphous shape that doesn’t touch the floor or the ceiling or fill the wall. The stuff in the collage on each piece of paper is assembled in a way that mimics that larger, original shape.

The same is true of Trotter’s side of the gallery. His collages are perfectly rendered marker drawings of pop-culture characters all crowded together, one on top of another. Some are vaguely obscure (the Brown Hornet from Fat Albert), and some are well known (Bugs Bunny). Some are crossed out because, as we all know, that just makes people want to get a better look.

Alexander is more focused on the repetition of shapes, textures and color patterns. From far away, two pretty, pinwheely flower shapes look identical. Up close, one is drawn, with a handmade pattern on a blue background, and another is collaged, with dotted blue paper from an ocean-heavy atlas page. The middle of one flower is filled in with orange ink. The other is made of interlocked, cut-out pictures of Woody Woodpecker.

What’s Trotter’s favorite thing about Pat Alexander’s installation? “The way shapes float,” he says. Alexander smiles and nods in solemn agreement. What does he like about Trotter’s work? “It’s so generous,” he says, referring to the high concentration of nostalgic imagery on each page.

These two have been friends for a long time, and when they talk about the history behind their myriad collaborations — as DJs Fat Sal and Superwolf, as artists who sit around and draw together, and as co-workers who run food in the same dining establishments — they’re like an old married couple trying to remember how they got together in the first place.

“I think it has to do with being in Kansas City,” Alexander says. “But it also has to do with being the same age and being influenced by pop culture.”

There might be skeptics who think that pop culture isn’t worth putting in art. Don’t tell that to these guys.

“If you didn’t have that fantasy,” Trotter wonders, “how jaded would you really be?”

Categories: Art, News