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by Steve Desroches

Strolling Commercial Street on any given day, the sheer amount of art within your sightline is an amazing gift, perhaps even overwhelming. From gallery windows to the sculptures on the lawn of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum to even a bit of guerrilla street art here and there. But there, smack in the middle of town, is perhaps the largest singular work of art in Provincetown. It’s hard to miss at 33 feet wide, and each time you look at it you notice a new element. It’s also perhaps the best representation of Provincetown’s counter culture history and rebellious spirit. It’s Shop Therapy’s façade covered by the enormous mural done by artist Joey Mars.

For over 30 years Mars has been a fused fixture of art, counter culture politics, and rock and roll in New England and beyond. And the new group show Push Back, of which he takes the lead, at Julie Heller East Gallery is a high-voltage exploration of the current political crisis in the United States, as well as a satisfying smackdown of the fascist flirtations of the Trump administration. Featuring the work of Mars and Greta Ribb, Ned Sonntag, and Dave Tree, Push Back is as explosive as it is vibrant in its artistry and politics. On the exterior wall of the Julie Heller East Gallery is a large cut out image of Donald Trump’s face the size of the disembodied floating head in The Wizard of Oz with a dollar sign under his nose giving him a Hitler’s mustache. That work is an apt greeting for the exhibition inside.

Once inside, a signature piece by Mars in the main view of the gallery’s window, says “Make America Take Acid Again”, a playful nod to the counter culture of the Sixties, from which the art inside evolved, as well as a somewhat literal invitation to take in the show as a grouping, and then focusing on piece by piece. Strange days call for art as much as any other. Push Back is both an interpretation and a call to arms reflecting the times by blurring the disturbing, such as the frequent use of Nazi imagery with the playfully confusing use of color, pop culture, and disciplined execution of each selected medium. The show in its totality is akin to flipping television channels rapidly, or taking a ride on Willy Wonka’s boat through the magical tunnel in which Violet Beauregarde exclaims, “What is this a freakout?!” Yes, Violet, it is.

Push Back featuring the work of Joey Mars, Greta Ribb, Ned Sonntag, and Dave Tree is on exhibition at Julie Heller East, 465 Commercial St., Provincetown, through November 5. For more information call 508.487.2166 or visit juliehellergallery.com.

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