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Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Jury Is In

Artspace
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Juror's Choice from City-Wide Open Studios 2006
Through Jan. 19, 2007

In the fall of 2006, Laura Donaldson was invited by Artspace to jury a selection of artists participating in Open Studios. Over the three weekends she viewed the work of some 500 artists. Out of those hundreds she chose ten artists whose works are showcased in Artspace's main gallery. As Donaldson—who has over ten years experience as a manager, director and curator of exhibition venues as well as being an artist herself—notes in her introduction to the show, "The ten artists I finally chose really stood out for me; I find their works fresh and memorable." While there are complementarities between some of the works, there is no grand theme to the show.

Johanna Bresnick's three works reference the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. She uses translucent striated tape on Plexiglas panel to create three "drawings"-views of the New Orleans Superdome. One view is from overhead, the type of seating chart that football fans might refer to when buying tickets. A second, titled "Cloverleaf," situates the structure within its environs, the surrounding highways. The most poignant is "Inside Pantheon," a drawing that depicts hurricane refugees. On the floor of the building, they sit dispirited on benches or huddled under blankets on cots.

Another contemporary disaster, this one fully manmade, provides grist for Bradley Dean Wollman's photographic set pieces. Wollman draws on images to recreate events in the Iraq War with toy soldiers and diorama materials. In "Crossing the Desert," four toy tanks kick up washed-out brown dust clouds made of dirty cotton. The aftermath of a bomb blast is the source material for "Bunker Buster." A gaping hole in the dark ceiling opens to the white blank sky; the floor is strewn with shattered debris. On the formal level, the photos are impressive. But they left me dissatisfied on the conceptual level. As in a child's play at war, there is no blood and anguish. And the criminal havoc inflicted on another people's land seems here just fodder for an aesthetic exercise.

Insook Hwang's lively installation "Fly to You II" incorporates digital video, fabric, canvas and paper. Hwang's multimedia work is rife with imagery of computer screens, eyeballs and digital iconography. Some of it is displayed like a mobile might be over a child's crib. Her imagery is playful-the catalog accurately describes it as "a mix of science fiction and Dr. Seuss." It prompted me to ponder this question: What is happening to the consciousness of babies and children born into and raised in an increasingly virtual world?

The show includes two sculptures by Rachel Vaters-Carr, "Upheaval" and "Pair." Working in hydrocal and wood, Vaters-Carr—who was profiled in Connecticut Art Scene last October—creates geologic forms as metaphors for emotional states: volcanoes, canyons. Vaters-Carr leaves her compositions a ghostly white, allowing the viewer to project their own interpretations upon them.

With his three digital C-prints, Paul Theriault is creating abstractions that use the layering and graphic capabilities of digital software. He deconstructs found imagery into striking compositions. It hearkens back to the formalist obsessions of the Abstract Expressionists (and the acid-addled creations of 60's psychedelic artists). The results are complex and attractive but they lack the tactile presence of the paintings they echo. These images make me think again, as per Hwang's installation, about the impact on consciousness of the virtual world. For all the possibilities digital technology opens up in terms of manipulation of information—be it in graphics, audio or video—there is still an airlessness that can be alienating.

Several of the artists use cut paper and collaged elements. Insook Hwang is one, but also Larissa Hall, Christopher Joy and Rashmi Talpade. Joy's wall installation, "Two Level Construction + Vegetation," places an architectural form within a larger environment of lush leaves and curling vines, all fastened to the wall with push pins. Pieces of paper overlap each other; details are sketched with pencil and markers. Hall's two paper collages riff off their amusing titles--apparently cribbed from sensationalized news stories--"If you think you are capable of decapitating me, for any reason, maybe we shouldn't get married" and "Drunk, naked and trapped in the bear cage at the Belgrade Zoo." The latter uses silhouetted figures of bears and naked running men cut out of paper decorated with patterns hand-drawn in watercolor and ink. In the use of patterned paper, it's reminiscent of the process of sewing clothing from cutout patterns. An aura of domesticity is harnessed to a madcap sensibility.

Rashmi Talpade's photo-collages evoke the claustrophobic chaos of an overcrowded world. Image jostles image for a claim on our attention. I particularly liked the middle collage, "Traffic." Talpade effectively assembled her composition to generate the illusion of perspective, as though we are looking out of the windshield of a cab into a noisy gridlock we'll never escape.

In its fascination with geologic forms, Keith Johnson's photo installation "Mammoth" complements Vaters-Carr's sculptures. Three panels of pigment photographic prints on canvas, they depict geothermal pools. Here is the Earth as a strange, scaly lumbering beast. Johnson finds appeal in the coarseness of the textures, the subtle curves of the forms and the washed-out but rich palette of colors.

1 Comments:

Blogger Sam McKinniss said...

You forgot to write about Emily Cappa's "movie theater" installation which ruled.

12:57 PM

 

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