Art in Re­view

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

20 Al­coves 16/17 #6

Through Jan. 29, New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art, 07 W. Palace Ave., 505-476-5072

It isn’t just the pop­u­lar­ity of the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art’s Al­coves shows — an on-again, off-again ex­hibit se­ries that was re­vived in 2012 af­ter nearly 20 years — that prompted the mu­seum to do it again with another round of artists for 2016 and 2017; it was a nod to the mu­seum’s ex­hibit tem­plate at the time it was founded. The se­ries, in which five lo­cal and re­gional artists present their work in solo in­stal­la­tions for a pe­riod of seven weeks, was in­spired by a model that be­gan when the mu­seum first opened in 1917 in which artists could sign up for small solo ex­hibits in re­cessed spa­ces on the mu­seum’s ground floor. The shows were re­vived in 2012 for the first time since the early 1990s, and again in 2016. The cur­rent year­long pro­gram is bei g held in ad­vance of the mu­seum’s 2017 cen­ten­nial.

The Al­coves show, now in its sixth it­er­a­tion, has show­cased con­tem­po­rary works in a va­ri­ety of me­dia by mid­ca­reer artists. The past few ex­hibits in the se­ries have worked well as solo in­stal­la­tions, but the in­stal­la­tions are also ef­fec­tive in con­ver­sa­tion with one another. The same is true of #6, which fea­tures in­stal­la­tions by Jo Wha­ley, Chris Collins, Christy Ge­org, Va­lerie Roy­bal, and Jami Porter Lara. Merry Scully, who has taken on the task of cu­rat­ing most of the Al­coves shows, has given each artist a chance to make their own state­ment, re­sult­ing in some pow­er­ful and provoca­tive com­mis­sioned works. As with the pre­vi­ous Al­coves, there is no theme around which the show is or­ga­nized, but leit­mo­tifs sur­face by hap­pen­stance. One of the de­lights of the se­ries’ run has been see­ing what un­planned themes and as­so­ci­a­tions are re­vealed. In this in­stance, Roy­bal em­braces vin­tage and sal­vaged ma­te­ri­als and so do Collins and Ge­org. Re­cy­cling ev­ery­day ma­te­ri­als for use in art is in vogue among re­gional artists, and there has been a trend in re­cent years for artists to seek in­spi­ra­tion in, and ex­alt, the ver­nac­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly in the medi­ums of sculp­ture, as­sem­blage, and pho­tog­ra­phy.

Collins’ Dis­card Se­ries is an in­stal­la­tion of sal­vaged ob­jects he found in the desert re­gions of New Mex­ico, which the artist then par­tially gilded in cop­per leaf, leav­ing some sur­face ar­eas un­touched. In his work, the em­brace of the col­lo­quial is most ap­par­ent. The wall-mounted ob­jects — a rusted and de­cay­ing metal drum, a crushed metal pail, and sim­i­lar ar­ti­facts so rav­aged by time that their orig­i­nal pur­pose is not al­ways plain — are eye-catch­ing be­cause of the sharp con­trast be­tween the dull, rusted, and pit­ted sur­faces and the ar­eas cov­ered in cop­per, which lends them a gleam­ing majesty. Be­cause his in­ter­ven­tions are min­i­mal, one senses that he isn’t trans­form­ing trash into ob­jects of art so much as ac­knowl­edg­ing the beauty that resided in the forms to be­gin with, ac­cen­tu­ated by years of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion from ex­po­sure to the el­e­ments.

Ge­org re­pur­poses ev­ery­day ob­jects, as well, but trans­forms them into in­ven­tive ki­netic sculp­ture. She is show­ing two of her me­chan­i­cal con­structs:

Wait/Hate (for Nau­man), and His­tory Les­son, the lat­ter be­ing a de­vice Ge­org used in a per­for­mance piece while in res­i­dence at De Fabriek in Eind­hoven, the Nether­lands, in 2015. His­tory Les­son is a work­ing phono­graph mounted on a sin­gle-wheeled con­trap­tion sim­i­lar to the de­sign of a wheel­bar­row and pow­ered by the gears when pushed. In her per­for­mance — photo doc­u­men­ta­tion is in­cluded in the ex­hibit — she moved the de­vice around while wear­ing roller skates.

The piece has two over­sized cylin­ders to broad­cast the mu­sic, jut­ting like the chrome ex­haust on a mo­tor­bike and giv­ing the rough ki­netic sculp­ture, which in­cor­po­rates sim­ple ma­te­ri­als such as un­var­nished wood, an­tique gears, and a bike chain, a steam­punk ap­pear­ance. Wait/Hate (for Nau­man) ref­er­ences, it seems, mul­ti­me­dia artist Bruce Nau­man’s pen­chant for jux­ta­po­si­tions of text with op­po­site mean­ings. These op­po­si­tions oc­cur in Nau­man’s 1985 litho­graph Live

or Die, which is in the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion, and other tit­u­lar word­play that re­veals sub­tle cor­re­spon­dences in lan­guage, as in his 1970 neon ana­gram None Sing Neon Sign, and his 1971 litho­graph Raw/War. Ge­org’s Wait/Hate is a ma­chine that types out the word “hate” on four spindly typewriter bars, one for each let­ter. The blurry text, which bil­lows out onto the floor in a con­tin­u­ous scroll when the ma­chine is in use, cre­ates a ten­sion be­tween ob­ject and view­ers, who ex­pect per­haps some­thing more pro­found than a mes­sage that says “hate.” But con­sider that it is the view­ers, po­ten­tially, op­er­at­ing the ma­chine, pro­duc­ing every in­stance of the printed word. The sculp­ture gives one pause to con­sider what we put out into the world, and to re­flect on the frus­tra­tions of the artis­tic process: the wait, for ex­am­ple, for in­spi­ra­tion.

Roy­bal’s in­stal­la­tion Inevitabil­i­ties, made be­tween 2008 and 2016, is a se­ries of em­broi­dered images on can­vas, each one made us­ing the tools of the craft and left un­fin­ished — each can­vas still se­cure in­side the cir­cu­lar frame that holds it in place while it is stitched. Roy­bal un­der­mines ex­pec­ta­tions by us­ing the craft to make com­po­si­tions in­spired by geo­met­ric forms in na­ture, ref­er­enc­ing the mi­cro­scopic world of molec­u­lar life, par­tic­u­larly the process of cell mu­ta­tion, but also in­sects. One piece de­picts the anatomy of a set of hu­man lungs. In her works on pa­per, she uses col­lage with an in­tri­cacy sim­i­lar to the an­tique il­lus­tra­tions of flora and fauna done by the nat­u­ral­ists of the 19th cen­tury and be­fore. Early nat­u­ral­ist de­pic­tions of bi­o­log­i­cal spec­i­mens and hand-drawn il­lus­tra­tions of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal relics of­ten showed them di­vorced from their nat­u­ral con­text and drawn as soli­tary, free-float­ing parts of a larger com­po­si­tion of ob­jects or spec­i­mens. Look closely at Roy­bal’s

All That Is, a mixed-me­dia col­lage that riffs on this con­ven­tion, and you see a com­bi­na­tion of hu­man­made ob­jects and nat­u­ral forms grouped to­gether be­cause of sim­i­lar­i­ties in their geo­met­ric struc­ture or shape — this is not un­like the way bi­ol­o­gists cre­ated their mor­pholo­gies in the 19th cen­tury. While both the do­mes­tic realm and the realm of sci­ence pro­vide ma­te­rial for her sub­ject mat­ter, Roy­bal lends her com­po­si­tions a broader con­text with sly ref­er­ences to art his­tory, as in Saturn Man, an im­age of man in a suit whose head is the planet Saturn, which re­calls the ab­surd con­fla­tions of the Sur­re­al­ists. Most of Roy­bal’s work is made us­ing text and im­agery culled from books and mag­a­zines, hand­writ­ten letters, and other sources.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Jo Wha­ley, too, is re­pur­pos­ing ma­te­ri­als as the ba­sis for new works. Her

Stage Stills se­ries was cre­ated at the Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter in Santa Fe, us­ing the cen­ter’s his­toric the­atri­cal back­drops and props. She in­vests each im­age with a nar­ra­tive sense, and although they are mostly de­void of peo­ple, a hu­man pres­ence is felt through­out. The se­ries de­vel­oped out of an on­go­ing project in which Wha­ley has been doc­u­ment­ing Scot­tish Rite Cen­ters and their in­te­ri­ors for a forth­com­ing book. The back­drops were orig­i­nally painted by artist Thomas G. Moses in the early 20th cen­tury. In her pho­to­graphs, Wha­ley cre­ates a di­a­logue be­tween Moses’ his­toric works and her own con­tem­po­rary prac­tice.

Porter Lara’s 108 Rep­e­ti­tions is an in­stal­la­tion of ce­ramic pieces, uni­form in struc­ture — all of them squat, black shapes based on the form of a plas­tic bot­tle — but achiev­ing a high de­gree of vari­ance within that ba­sic uni­for­mity. Each bot­tle bears some char­ac­ter­is­tic that dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from the rest: Some have dented sides, some are more squat than oth­ers, and some of the necks bend at odd an­gles. Each clay bot­tle has been ren­dered in small scale. This is the kind of in­trigu­ing sculp­ture that aes­thet­i­cally stands on its own with its smooth and pleas­ing tac­tile forms, en­gag­ing the in­tel­lect with its pos­si­ble as­so­ci­a­tions to peo­ple and di­ver­sity, con­sumerism, and ma­te­ri­al­ism, per­haps in re­la­tion to spir­i­tu­al­ity (108 is the num­ber of prayer beads on a Bud­dhist mala, which are counted off in a se­ries of rep­e­ti­tions dur­ing med­i­ta­tion). With two solid years of mostly strong works, the

Al­coves shows be­lie past crit­i­cisms of the mu­seum as an aloof in­sti­tu­tion, in­ac­ces­si­ble to lo­cal artists who haven’t made a na­tional name for them­selves. At a time when, more and more, the mu­seum has re­lied on its his­toric col­lec­tions as the ba­sis for its shows, few ex­hi­bi­tions have shown that the NMMoA is in­deed ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing and en­gag­ing with the lo­cal arts com­mu­nity as much as their Al­coves shows do. When Al­coves 16/17 closes (the sev­enth and fi­nal part opens on Feb. 4), it will have given 35 artists solo ex­hi­bi­tions at the in­sti­tu­tion. Scully de­serves ku­dos for a se­ries that, par­tic­u­larly this year, has been of a con­sis­tently good qual­ity. — Michael Abatemarco

On Fri­day, Jan. 6, at 5:30 p.m., the artists of “Al­coves 16/17 #6” dis­cuss their work in a free talk at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave., 505-476-5072).

Chris und ob­ject, cop­per; rig , , 2016, vin­tage pa­per col­lage, pen , che on clay­board; top right, Jami Porter Lara: 108 Rep­e­ti­tions, 2016, pit-fired clay, im­age cour­tesy Ad­di­son Doty Op­po­site page, bot­tom left, Christy Ge­org: His­tory

Les­son, 2015, steel, ma­chine parts, wood, vel­vet, vinyl record, im­age cour­tesy Koen Di­jk­man; top right, Jo Wha­ley: Di­a­logue, 2016, archival pig­ment print, cour­tesy Photo-eye Gallery

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.