Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The write stuff

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175

As with many, if not all their shows, the Arts & Literature Laboratory's Interleaving show offers works that incorporate text. (I've been a little slow on the uptake about this—it is the Arts & Literature Laboratory, after all.) Some works hint at narrative, others are forms of visual poetry and at least one is a hilarious polemic.

The pieces by Sue O'Donnell and Donna Adams play it coy. O'Donnell's "Past" is a twist on the X-Files verity that "the truth is out there." In this case, the truth is "in" there, "there" being illuminated glass boxes holding jumbles of cut-up reminiscences of past relationships printed on transparency film. In her statement, O'Donnell declares that it "represents a timeline of stories and symbols that describe intimacies and secrets based on personal life events specific to boyfriends, lovers and acquaintances." They may be illuminated but they aren't illuminating. But the larger point is made: that the elements that make up the past run together and are ultimately unknowable to those who haven't lived it.

Adams, "Storyboard 1" and "Storyboard 2" are colorful intaglio prints that overlay blocks of text printed in color. But while the text does hold meaning—according to her statement, it recounts "bits and pieces of my childhood"—it isn't truly readable. Lines ride on top of each other. Colors blend. The cut shapes of blocks of text take visual precedence over the content.

Obscurity is written into the very fabric of the works of Irene Miller, Carole P. Kunstadt, Banjie Getsinger Nicholas, Paulette Rosen and Tessa McSorley. Unrelated but complementary, they share a gallery wall. Miller's "Warum Nichts" incorporates reproductions of the German script from letters written by her parents. With "Sacred Poem XIV" and "Sacred Poem XV," Kunstadt cut and then wove together pages from an 1844 Psalmody. The paper is discolored with age and the type is miniscule. It isn't possible to read the fragments, exactly, but the fine stitching and the attention Kunstadt has lavished on them convey a prayerful reverence.

Not all are subtle. Sarah Buckius' "I'm Impressionable" series consists of six photos of the artist with commands impressed into her forehead. It is a commentary on the way some people—including the artist, apparently—internalize others' expectations of them. The images are cropped so as not to show her mouth, silencing her so she can't talk back.

In the "not subtle and definitely hilarious" department is Rita Valley's artist book "God Hates Artists." The evidence? "God created critics, curators and art dealers." "God thinks making art is a waste of time." Valley employs a cut-up ransom note aesthetic for her polemic.

Howard Oransky
's "The Last Wall" is from a series called The Shrouds. He uses text that is a fragment of a poem in Hebrew by Aharon Zeitlin: "I, among the most lonesome/ The last of Jewish remnants/ I am your destroyed temple's/ Last remaining wall." The lines of poetry are hand-lettered on canvas. Hanging in front of it is a long sheet of fabric with three images transferred as monoprints. To read the poetry we look through translucent imagery of suffering and loss. At top, a hand is outstretched as if in death. In the middle, a gaunt man with sunken eyes stands before a background of a stone block wall. On the bottom, there is a depiction of a ruined temple. In one sense, we have to look past the images and what they represent to read the poetry. On the other hand, the poetic lament reinforces the anguish portrayed in the monoprints.

Linda Ohrn-McDaniel
uses fabric to express more joyful sentiments, sentiments that commemorate memories as a means to consecrate a future. With "A Glimpse of My Heart," she created her wedding gown. The white silk dress is machine embroidered with text in both English, native language of her husband, and her native tongue Swedish. There are two motifs. The English text is contained within circles and details memories of their times together. Marking the background is the Swedish text, which "explains [her] feelings for [her] husband" and is interspersed with embroidered hearts. The embroidery is in a variety of fonts. (Apropos of Rita Valley's book, I couldn't help but think of a ransom note. Perhaps he kidnapped her heart...) Ohrn-McDaniel's piece could be cited as an example of wearing one's heart on one's sleeve if not for the fact that it is a sleeveless gown.

Nicholas Knight is represented in the show with a wall drawing. Entitled "Silence (Wittgenstein)," it is a diagram in pencil and with vinyl lettering of a sentence from the philosopher's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921). Knight dissects the structure of the sentence in both English and the original German. Deconstructing meaning becomes a visual and geometric process. In good English class fashion, he is dissecting the grammar into its components based on their relationships. But he also fashions a schematic drawing that has its own compositional integrity.


Post a Comment

<< Home