Practically the first work to greet you as you enter the ICA is Dante Rendle Taylor's Show (2012), one of several video installations scattered about the gallery. On the screen, a disembodied male head, adorned with a beard of shaving cream, wears what is either a condom-style hat or a hat-style condom. On a background of senseless words, the head makes babbling noises. Sound tasteless? It is. It's only after perusing the rest of the show that the theme of ludicrous modernity becomes clear, and the you realise that Taylor is poking fun at the worst excesses of contemporary art.
Isabella South's Homer Wake Up You're Alive (2013) provides a more pleasing double-take. The painting only becomes visible in light of its title. Coloured shapes, in some areas unfinished and in others viscerally dripping paint, emerge as an extreme close-up of Homer Simpson's brown and yellow chops. He holds his hand in front of him in disbelief, as stunned by the fact of his existence as any Frankenstein's monster. Indeed, if Homer were to come to life, he would be amazed by the popularity and resonance his dumb-loser persona has elicited in the public consciousness.
Hardeep Patel's 2Pac Jumper by Mum (2012) and Bruce Parry Vest by Mum (2012) are exactly that – 2Pac's and Parry's faces knitted onto jumpers – and Thomas Aitchison's Lynx Genesis (2012) is a thin sculpture made out of cans of that cheapest and cheesiest of aftershaves, Lynx. These entertaining riffs on popular culture raise a smile, but don't exactly delve much deeper. The same can be said for Bucket of Chicken and a 40oz (2013), a video clip taken from YouTube and displayed here alongside a KFC plastic bag, in which the infamous competitive eater and drinker, 'Tiny' Tim Rauscheder, polishes off the eponymous meal.
On the more serious side, It was all Ephemeral as a rainbow (2012) by Steven Morgana is a light sculpture powered by a portable electric generator, refuelled with petrol decanted into various brands of bottled water that stand in front of it, with the petrol apparently cheaper per litre than the water it replaces. It is one of the paradoxes of modern life that water, one of the most abundant substances on Earth, once bottled, costs more than petrol or milk. Laura O'Neill's Boney P (2012) is another challenging sculpture in resin and marble. A pale ribcage balanced gawkily on long, bird-like legs, inherently feminine, Boney P comments on the culture of thinness that oppresses the modern woman.
Joanna Piotroska presents her Frowst series (2012), black-and-white photographs that explore the family dynamic, with family members sprawled on grass and carpets, gazing moodily at the camera or at each other, full of a glamorous angst as retro as it is modern. Another timeless image is captured by Shelley Theodor's video Madame Boussieux Looks (2013), also in black and white, where a hidden camera spies on the middle-aged and frowsy Madame, just as she spies on others by peering nosily around her doorframe at somebody else's business.
On the more extreme, experimental and impenetrable side are works like Language is a Virus from Outer Space (2013) by Adam Hogarth, a video of troll dolls with mouths where their private parts should be, babbling, as in Dante Rendle Taylor's piece, somewhat obscenely, and Marlene Steyn's The Handsome Pool Party (2013), a surreal painting rendered all the more obscure by the addition of a plasticine finger protruding above its frame.
Make of that what you will. There is a freshness to this show, as expected from a cull of the country's most promising fine art graduates, and there are certainly some flashes of insight in the often irreverent works presented here, but they are fleeting. If you hope to see art that makes an impact beyond a smirk and a raised brow, then you'll have to look elsewhere.