Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Becoming a Tree (Cake Included)

Last Thursday night was the opening for "The December Show" at whitespace, a group show of artists primarily represented by the gallery. Group shows like these are interesting in that they can give an impression of the overall aim or personality of the gallery but also tricky since each artist has only one piece in the show and therefore it's more difficult to gleam an understanding of what any particular artist is really attempting in their work.

Beth Marcum, "Fruit", Oil on Wood, 84"x48"

One of my favorite aspects of the show was the placement of the works, beyond complimenting one another, many pairings traced similarities of thought between the artists or added another dimension to the works. Marcum's 7 footer (above) worked nicely paired with Smith's small porcelain figure (below). The difference in proportion and color really set each one off.

Caroline Smith, "Reveal", Porcelain, 13"x5.5."x8"

Smith can make some beautiful things happen with porcelain. Remember this sculpture from my very first post? As the year is coming to a close I think I can look back and say that was the sexiest sculpture of '07. And if I ran things around here, the High would snap that one up and put it out on permanent display so I could visit it again.

Mehmet Dogu, "Photo Ensemble", Digital Prints

Dogu had a solo show at whitespace back in September (see previous post here.)

Who invited Josh? (They'll let anyone in these days...)

There's a lot happening in Caroline Lathan-Stiefel's ink on paper piece.

I tried to get a detail shot but you'll probably just need to see this one in person. This drawing is what might result from sitting through a week long seminar on gun regulation hosted by Dick Cheney.

John and Hanyun looking handsome.

Jody Fausett, "Flower Room", Giclee Print

One of my favorites in the show. This photograph is also in Fausett's new book, for which there will be a book signing at whitespace next Wednesday (Dec 19th).

Bret and Beth with Ferrydoon Family in the background.

If you had to guess which piece in the show was done by a professor of physics... it kind of stood out, especially with a title like "Kinetic Roughening #20". Ferrydoon Family's painting was one of the highlights of the show for me. Family begins by drawing horizontal lines across the canvas, and as deviations occur he draws the next line accordingly. Eventually the inconsistencies in line become the blueprint for the dimensionality given to the painting. I hear he is going to have a solo show with whitespace in the spring of '08. That's definitely going to be a show worth seeing.

Sculptor Julia Hill in the presence of an amazing, fur-rimmed, red hat that was possibly garnering more attention than some of the art. I think the next time I am in a large group show I want to make a sculpture on someones head and have them meander through the reception crowd, checking out prices, sipping wine, glaring at anyone who snickers, etc.

Back to the placement of the art, I really liked the pairing of my drawing and Richard Sudden's oil on metal piece, "Life After Life".

In the additional gallery, "White Spec", Shana Robbins (above with her man Alex) is showing her parts of her MFA thesis exhibition "This Is Me. Be Careful."

Primarily a performance artist, Robbin's show is an interesting collection of costumes, props, and two-dimensional collages, drawings, and paintings, all relating to her performances.

"This Is Me. Be Careful" Gouache, Acrylic, and Ink on Vintage Print

Many of the works seem like sketches for possible performances or pondering about roles, identity, and herself as a character in an imagined world, as in the vintage print above of a forest Robbins inserted herself into.

"Dirt Eater" and "Becoming A Tree", collage, ink, on paper
I especially liked these collage pieces.

In talking about her work, Robbins quoted Luce Irigaray describing the female body as space: "In short, woman has been represented as the space or place by and in which man can find a position and locate himself... She is space, place, or home and consequently has none herself" and went on to say that for her, "recovering this lost space or place requires trying on innumerable roles and personas and haunting a place or space with those characters within painting and performances... at times becoming more like an animal or plant, as a way of intercepting lost power, destabilizing static notions of the female body, or deflecting unwanted projections and gazes."

"Tree Ghost" Mixed media on paper

One thing I wonder is whether Robbins is really "destabilizing static notions of the female body, or deflecting unwanted projections and gazes." By placing herself as the focal point of her work, Robbins is insisting on being seen, on capturing the "gaze" and by incorporating very feminine props/costumes (i.e. dresses, bows, form fitting fabrics, etc) Robbins is not eschewing the female body but instead relishing femininity, choosing to play little red riding hood instead of the big bad wolf. This raises the question though of the intent, and whether donning these garments is intended to somehow negate them, to identify and reverse this role.

It's interesting to me that Robbins had a previous career as a fashion model and spent a good deal of time in front of the camera, undoubtedly feeling the heavy male "gaze," the societal "projections" and basically getting paid to play the role of the idealized and often simplified idea of a woman. It makes sense that an experience like that would leave one questioning women's roles and acutely aware of "lost space or place."
Robbin's own work leaves the fashion behind, but continues the toying with the fantasy and the allure. She continues to place herself in front of the camera, or audience, but from her experience may have a better understanding of the consequences.

A video was playing of Robbin's performance "This Is Me. Be Careful". What is striking about this piece for me is that the video is not a documentation of a past performance done for an audience, but instead the performance was done for the camera, with no one present but Robbins and the videographer (in this case whitespace artist Mark Starnes). So the intended audience is the viewer of the video, and while my knowledge of performance art is pretty much nil, this seems to place performance art in a different context. In a sense Robbins is enacting or personifying her collage pieces, while keeping the presentation two-dimensional.

"Blue Moon" Gouache and colored pencil on paper

Both shows at Whitespace are up until January 19, 2008, Check 'em out.

Later... Josh was slightly more amicable after a couple of cocktails.

1 comment:

Fifth said...

I like "Kinetic Roughening #20". It reminds me of the type of doodles you see high schoolers drawing in math class, except taken really awesomely far.