Installion view (L to R) Jesser, Talasco, Bawa(foreground & partial) & Clay
"We're all kind of basically involved in the same thing, putting up a
blank of some kind and filling it in
." - William Wiley
Blank - Exploring Nothing is the latest curatorial conundrum from Atlanta-based
aquaspace (aka artist/curator/writer Avantika Bawa) on view through the month
of May at Tilt Gallery &
Essentially, Blank is a small group exhibition of eight artists (including Bawa
herself) who are exploring the ambiguous, esoteric space of the intangible,
sourcing the impossible scope of nothingness. Without delving too deeply into
the sing-song Seventies to take umbrage with one Billy Preston ditty that plays
on "nothing" in all its triviality, one believes that the embodiment
of this work, yonder side of physics, has been well coordinated on the walls,
floor and window of said project space.
The undercurrent of horror vacui is very much understated here. In the fitting
of eleven works into a space under 500 feet square, keeping a needed balance
of white space, the installation is a feat in and of itself. For the cenophobic
among us, know that there's neither empty walls nor a sense of claustrophobia
awaiting you, these works simply utilize the space well.
Lauren Clay's Little Compound Contenders
Take for instance the two candy-colored gouache pieces (Little Compound Contenders
and Little Compound Abiders) by Lauren
, each posing as fictitious CAD drawings, or some form of futuristic
skyline or perhaps a set of escape pods. The solid white void and crisply rounded
paper corners give the work a faux elegance, and heightened graphic sensibility.
The artist appears fearless in the world of neo-neon and these pert works on
paper are more like flavors than colors. Clay deviates from any subscribed palette
when composing these crystalline villages that are as cartoony as they are architectural.
Aside from being uninhabited spaces (or objects) the works' sense of emptiness
seems somewhat superimposed. The effect recalls the spirit of retro sci-fi (Logan's
Run, Star Trek, Blade Runner) sans the invasion of android life forms.
New Yorker Victoria Fu's window-based video installation Deuce (running time:
8 minutes) trips the eye in its overlay of two tennis matches. Two women depicted
at play, night and day. The superimposition of these athletes provides a well-edited
composition that typifies the conventional repetitive nature of sports. The
piece encapsulates something about the attention of the viewer in that it is
probably one of the few times you would catch me glaring at the tube at something
as yawningly mundane. What is offered here is a shotgun glimpse into the duality
between choreographed cookie-cutter resolve (precision?) of reenactment versus
the improvisation of chance. What's missing is the roar of the crowd, and though
one side is fated to win, the loop is locked within a repeat cycle, offering
only a bit of a doppelganger effect.
Maxwell's Demon (USA II)
Re-mapping the United States of America is a tall order in 2007. There's just
something soulfully missing over and above the hills and dales. Leave it to
a Brit to come up with a contemporary resizing of the lines that cross and divide
us in the show's most eloquently simple work, Maxwell's Demon (USA I and II).
also an art historian who teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design,
inadvertently advocates the metaphor of shooting blanks in these works that
play on their own physical inversion. The first piece (in the back gallery)
is made from white rubber, providing only the impressions (by way of removed
rusted brass pins) of violent statistics in our urban centers. His stark, complementary
piece in black hangs from the center point of the gallery wall and is pierced
with brads, which outline our nation's primary power sources. The sparkle of
the pinheads is readily flash, and though the depth of the puncture is less
than an inch thick, the history lesson in capital dominance is miles wide. This
work's simplicity, in its outline, could easily be seen as a space shot of the
country by night. However, it captures a lasting reverberation in the wake of
overpopulation, subsequently pondering every square inch of American soil. Perhaps
a comment on civil engineering or developer playing God. Taking into consideration
where we are in our eco-history this set asks poker-faced questions with a hint
The word "blank" itself is rife with potential double entendre, as
meaning substitute or even a chemical solution. Here, Bawa
plays on architectural austerity with her sculptural work Mis-fed. She virtually
draws in space with pre-fab lines constructed by the edges and surface of wood
paneling. As this work sits just off-center upon the floor, it toys with the
whole 'part-of-the-woodwork' cliché. The minimalist piece she deconstructs
and reinvents here is one part installation and one part fusion of inanimate
gesture, it's unplugged. Her reference to mechanical detachment has been formulated
from an abrupt, yet elegant few components. What appears to be some kind of
off-kilter printer-type contraption is actually a lovely metaphor for a skeletal
set of broken bones, or archeological dig. That Bawa chose not to create a kinetic
work, but rather to draw in three dimensions, something that may suggest an
action, makes this work far more powerful than batteries could.
Somewhere, between the fine lines of Blank, a subtext of loss and longing emerges.
An emotional undercurrent peeks through the guise of each flat exterior, slightly
weary and wise, but standing en guard. The voids and open-ended, empty pauses
mute the space softly but surely. What lands is not quite the non-objective,
layered formula of Malevich nor the erasing of a would-be masterpiece-cum-conceptual
work of genius by Rauschenberg. Rather, Blank poses more cunningly in its slack-jawed
stand-offishness. In Brett Osborn's Runaway Bride the stiff playing cards stand
erect at nearly lifesize, parodying the gist of endgame, and perhaps mirroring
the artist's own sense of death (life, relationships). One can't observe the
work without recalling the falsified publicity stint of fellow Georgian Jennifer
and her absenteeism at the altar. In much the same tonal range,
work by NY photographer Traci
leaves bare the weight of removed objects from a dog-eye view, a
carpeted surface of an apartment floor that's been vacated. Is this a dwelling
of someone who has been robbed or re-possessed? Perhaps it signifies the gestural
allusion of what's left behind when one moves to a bigger, more deluxe apartment
in the skies?
Jesser's How I see things and how I make things
With a blank stare forward I was caught off-guard by Fred
Jesser's How I see things and how I make things
, which, by title at least,
has a lovely ring to it. Outside of its process-oriented, poetic daintiness,
a cloud-shaped box conceals something - perhaps thin air? The two-part piece
contemplates the detached relationship between the surreal organicism of Mother
Earth as jack-in-the-box and psychedelic free thought as depicted in the plain
caricature of a lone puffy cloud. Resulting is a grown-up version of playing
observational make-believe with pictures. The intention to build something hastily
doesn't come across, but what does is a cleverly crude sealed box of suspended
thoughts, even though it's propped by a much smaller, random cardboard box.
The concern with the weight of the skies seems ridiculously heady, but its resonance
with all things equivalent (see: Stieglitz
draws on the levity of real-time. The cumulus-like manifestation drawn from
a suspended mass, as object, plays the joke on its very transitory nature.
Drennen's Hollywood Beginning and Hollywood Ending
Hollywood Beginning and Hollywood Ending is wordplay at its finest. Craig
Drennen's punctuated diptych
wryly plays on the flat visage of the ubiquitous
sign atop the hills of 90210 (or thereabouts). Re-contextualized on paper Drennen
has cast aside all the alphabetical innards between the letters that would recreate
the actual sign. He's only left the bookends of "H" and "D"
in all their vacant flatness. In fact, he's even rendered the letters in faux-finish,
to appear as index cards cut to shape, and then doodled upon them. This wily
gesture to emulate the mythical iconography of Tinseltown is sardonic in its
emptiness. Here, contemporary superficiality meets with a double-edge sword.
In essence, voiding the immediate reverence many tourists pay to the glitzy
Blank: Slate or Stare?
Blank is a calculated synthesis of informality. The potential for double takes
or analogous interpretations make for a conceptually fit grouping that shows
off its short-sleeved cleverness without an after taste. Bawa has graced the
Northwest with a smattering of artists, many of whom are showing in this neck
of the woods for the very first time, and hopefully not the last.
This show is presented in collaboration with Drain
Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture. See it through May 26 at Tilt
at the Everett Station Lofts, Friday and Saturday 12-5PM.
is a Portland-based multimedia artist, independent curator
and freelance cultural writer.