Visual Arts: Young guns go for it




IT HAPPENS time and time again. A curator comes up with a great zeitgeist theme, the show is cast, a hip designer is contracted to do the catalogue and a substantial buzz is generated. Then the artists go and muck it all up by insisting on being artists and doing whatthey like. In this case, however, any discrepancy between the curators' intentions and the artists' response has had an enriching effect. There may not be much interrogation of the theme - fashion and "popular" culture - but the range of the work is impressive. There's even some good painting.

Co-curated by Southampton City Art Gallery (where it first appeared at the end of last year), Arnolfini and Oldham Art Gallery, Accelerator is an international group show by 12relatively young artists. The buzz starts in the foyer of the gallery, where Jeremy Deller - the artist who once made a T-shirt out of a tabloid headline reading "Robbie Williams: My Drug Hell", which was then worn by the singer in a notable act of appropriation - has fashioned an audio-tape loop of a ticket tout's ever more desperate imprecations. Once inside, your ears are assailed by the rave music soundtrack of Hilary Lloyd's video installation where, on two screens, a DJ can be seen in the contrasting settings of a club and his bedroom. Neither incarnation - spinning records or smoking fags - offers much textual analysis or aesthetic pleasure. Lloyd's other piece, a slide show of a club queen's progress through the night, also displays a studied blankness that fails to move the exhibition beyond a self-defeating, "Yeah, right" response.

The painters, by contrast, display a superficially uncritical delight in the visual language of advertising and promotion that recalls the work of Pop artists from the Sixties. Michael Bevilacqua paints collages of band logos and teen icons with an ice-cream palette, while Suzy Spence turns a star-stalker's eye on the teen-cult TV princess, Tori Spelling. Sylvie Fleury uses a palette derived from cosmetics brochures to paint brilliant abstracts in the form of customised car decorations, and Karen Kilimnik draws Leonardo DiCaprio in a purposely artless style that suggests the star-struck pencil work of pathological fans. Among the three-dimensional work on show, the Japanese artist Ako Sasao has made rag dolls in the images of Noel, Patsy, Naomi, and Keith from Prodigy that nails down the gaucheness of teen iconography.

Though the original theme of fashion seems to have receded since the curators' founding plan, sculptor Freddie Contreras has created a catwalk where, in response to pressure pads on a long length of lino, a blitz of flash-bulbs go off in your face. Accelerator might not make you think, but it keeps you on your feet.

Arnolfini, Bristol (0117-929 9191) then Oldham Art Gallery (0161-911 4657)