Duane Linklater @ Family Biz
A dozen raspberry bushes have been transplanted into a mound of dark soil in the center of this small gallery in which I sit, as straight as I can, on a brown pillow contemplating the little fruit’s spiritual side. I eat the reddest one I can find and try to make sense out of the gibberish on the chalk board. Nothing. It’s chaos to me. I lie down. Try to smell the plants. I touch their leaves, pour water from my bottle onto their bases. I ask myself, “how is this installation operating within the context of the white cube?” I repeat the question out loud. The cube-minder, who thinks he’s being addressed, says, “I’m not really sure what you mean.” I tell him not to worry and he quickly turns his attention back to his laptop as I give my attention to the plants’ stems and branches. They’re fragile and require support to stay upright. That doesn’t strike me as natural. In fact it starts to bother me.
The little sticks now register as phallic totems and the fact they’re driven into the mound of soil seems a kind of symbolic sexual violation. Suddenly the whole installation begins to swarm with ideas of man’s dominance over nature, of establishing the order of right angles in a world of curves. Everything but the plants themselves obey this law of right angles: the gallery architecture, the rectangular plot for the plants, the chalkboard, the pillows, even the piece of paper tacked to the wall. I pluck another berry and eat it slowly.
Serra @ Starr
The weight of my body causes the floorboards to creek as I cautiously approach one of Richard Serra’s drawings. From a distance the form of Serra’s line struck me as the dominant feature. Images of skid marks in parking lots, of the coiled snake that does not want to be treaded upon, of a determined child fisting a crayon, grinding the waxy point down to a dull stub—these associations melt away now that I am within arm’s reach of the object.
Up close I can see that these drawings were done on transparencies, not paper. The thick black material Serra drew with looks like creosote that’s been in the sun; its physical properties are exactly opposite those of the clean-cut, clear plastic sheet. Holes, presumably where Serra pinned the transparency to whatever backing he used to draw upon, are visible in the corners. The surface is not only punctured, it buckles and bulges—heaving almost, and summoning up images of slate grey waves beneath an anvil sky. Nothing placid here.
I stand at an angle, oblique to the surface of the work and see now that this crusty dark material has been applied to both sides of the transparency. This is why the work does not sit flat in its mount. I am looking through the drawing as much as I’m looking at it, realizing as I do that the backside of the drawing is visible to a degree on the front. The effect is something like seeing one’s reflection in the window through which one looks out and views a landscape.
There is a superimposition that occurs, a layering that seems crucial to the work, though it may be less conceptual than intrinsic to the artist’s process. Maybe the double-sidedness was not a preconceived notion, but the natural result of a Serra’s methodology; as if the artist ran out of transparencies while he was drawing and simply began using the backsides. It is not unthinkable, but then, why would Serra have used transparencies if he didn’t intend to take advantage of their principle quality?
The repeating motif in many of these drawings is a sort of corkscrew spiral. I count the number of turns in one piece—six—and proceed to spin myself around that many times. The works blur by in a smudge of a line that approximates the marks of Serra’s drawings. I imagine them sharing a room with studies by Joseph Albers, perhaps the orange and red ones he made in Mexico.
Tony Cox, William Lamson, Ken Tisa, & Steven Thompson @ Kate Werble Gallery
An exhibition that gives a good naked experience overall.
Tony Cox’s mixed media pieces look good naked. They have an enigmatic and ritualistic character, like artifacts of some magic cult you never knew existed. There is a strong element of craft in Tony’s work, evidence of the artist’s hand and his time can easily be identified in the dense needlework. Sewing is Tony’s main thing; he either stitches patterns into canvas or sews objects onto his canvas. The objects are mundane—bobby pins, earrings, chopsticks, beads, cushion covers—but they incur a somewhat fetishistic force on the canvas. Tony’s overall composition tends toward symmetry, but like the hand woven rugs of Native Americans, it’s pleasantly imperfect.
Ken Tisa’s watercolor paintings are amazing in the nude!
Mesmerizing, swirling,hypnotic—his compositions could be portraying the schematics of bird’s nest or colliding air currents or vortexes of any kind. They immediately call to mind this idea of vision that James Elkins put forward in The Object Stares Back wherein everything you look at looks back at you, no matter what that things’ eyes are doing (if that thing even has eyes). If you could see all the lines of vision it would look like a complex web or a cat’s cradle. Ken Tisa’s washy paintings perfectly illustrate the concept. In one, a grid pattern hovers below the surface of countless finely articulated lines twirling into whorls as if flowing from one eddy into another. Like Tony’s pieces, Ken’s watercolors could be meditational objects. They embody the act of concentration through repetition, of finding the inner fluidity of solid things.
Steven’s Thompson’s sculpture looks great naked, there is just so much to discover in it! The core of the structure is an illusion: a mass of wood is nailed, cut, and painted to look like an outcropping of rock. Four tables (also wood) extend out from the rock, giving the circular sculpture clear quadrants. The tables and the faux rock are all balanced by dozens of shims, which gives the weighty work an air of improvisation, like when a waiter sticks a coaster under the leg of a wobbly table and it’s suddenly dead even.
The objects Steven situates on the four tables could be specimens from the collection of an alchemist—iridescent shells, fossilized coral, a human skull, quartz crystals, an ostrich egg, chunks of amber, cork, parts of a tobacco pipe, magnets, and on and on. Like the sprawling installations of Sarah Sze you want to inspect everything, and the longer you look the more you find. Steven has carved words and sometimes just letters into a few of the objects. In the cork he carved “death plaid,” and in a little white rock, the word “Koh.” Was this a reference to the performance artist, Terence Koh, or—perhaps more plausibly—to the inorganic compound Potassium Hydroxide, a colorless solid whose chemical formula is “KOH?”
William Lamson’s video piece is enjoyable naked. In it a person in a white outfit strives to keep a large glowing balloon air born. It’s night, so all is dark, and the glowing balloon is the sole source of illumination. The action appears to have been staged in a field; the figure and the balloon recede into space until eventually they disappear behind what must be a decline in the landscape. The soundtrack, which gives the whole exhibition an audio component, is all crickets and cicadas. This is an imminently soothing video; as I watched the balloon and figure grow smaller and fainter while the insects played their steady song I felt like I was slipping into hypnosis.