In on the Joke by Lucy Yau

Members shows tend to be a hodgepodge of quality and talent. They allow the work of fresh amateurs to mingle in the company of work created by seasoned professionals.

This particular exhibition at Big Orbit contains pieces with wit to spare.

Invasion of the Art School Graduates by Nelson Bradley is a visual commentary on the growth industry of MFA programs and its effects on real estate values in Brooklyn. It is a vivid color print, styled after the poster art of the 1950s. The work could be an ad peddling the latest vodka concoction. Jaded, hipper-than-thou young couples lounge around. It’s a swipe at the transformation of formerly grubby Brooklyn neighborhoods into pricey, gentrified locales owing in large part to the influx of newly minted artists, many supported by generous trust funds.

Jean-Michel Reed presents a more serious look at real estate. Reed has photographed a few of Buffalo’s more derelict properties in Pink Houses. Most are boarded up, many have suffered fire damage and several are crumbling into rubble. His postcard format is a statement about how outsiders may view our city as a repository of substandard and decaying housing stock.

Simon Being Zealous by Bruce Adams is an oil work on wood, framed within golden columns that suggest a religious icon. However, this is a strictly secular saint. The Simon here is saucily posed with his back to us, his sun-kissed body bare except for a skimpy pair of briefs, a hint of a smirk on his lips. The work is a play on the dual identities of Saint Simon, one of the more obscure apostles. Simon was associated with zealousness and is the patron saint of handicrafts, particularly tanners. No, not sunbathers, leather tanners. We’re idolatrous devotees of this vain, preening deity. This Simon is zealously improving his self-image and has literally turned his back on his worshippers.

Artemis and the Stag by Michael Bosworth is a timely and satirical composition. The mixed media and video contains a nice surprise within its Pabst beer can exterior.

Soap Bubbles, a traditional oil on canvas painting by A.J. Fries, is a piece of pure froth. The frivolous, fragile subject matter is meticulously rendered. This whimsical work received Honorable Mention.

Jeffrey Paul Lane’s two egg and oil tempura paintings, Le Chapois du Petal Roise and Q-9 Study, contain their own intricately detailed mythologies.

Salvatore Scrivo’s mixed media work, The Theater of Life, is an homage to the surrealism of Rene Magritte. A fancifully attired woman in a baroque dress lifts up her skirt, curtain-like, to reveal the sky underneath. Wallpaper patterns are integrated into the print of her skirt. It’s a humorous blending and blurring of interior and exterior space.

Alex Young’s conceptual piece The Narrows received Best in Show. It is a work based on the King Champ Gillette utopian tract, The Human Drift. Best known for developing the safety razor, Gillette proposed the creation of a metropolis powered by Niagara Falls that would be home to 60-million-plus residents in a consolidated area extending from the Canadian side of the Falls through Buffalo to Rochester. Influenced by the Pan Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Gillette’s vision was a utilitarian model of urban planning that aimed to create as little waste as possible. Young finds it ironic that the disposability of Gillette’s most famous invention was so at odds with the ideals he set forth. The Narrows is a regionally topical piece, and on a broader level appeals to the current trend toward a new urbanism, shifting away from the decades-old haphazard way of development through rampant suburban sprawl.

The members exhibition at Big Orbit Gallery, 30d Essex Street, will be on view until March 1.