"There is a point where in the mystery of existence contradictions meet;
where movement is not all movement and stillness is not all stillness; where the
idea and the form, the within and the without, are united; where infinite becomes
finite, yet not"
- Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Prize for literature 1913)
Kelly Rauer's Shaping Sequence at NAAU
Consisting of numerous videos of isolated slow moving body parts Kelly
Rauer's Shaping Sequence
at NAAU is a fleshy tribute to kandinsky's compositional
technique of having convexities answering concavities. It's even more even more
obviously related to Georgia O'Keeffe, another Kandinskyite. Even more
related is the work of O'Keefe's husband, Alfred Steieglitz, whose incredibly
loaded photos of O'Keefe's hands set up a dialogocal art historical conversation
between both photography and video art here. In fact Shaping Sequence acts quite
a bit more like an installation of photographs rather than a single video piece
or a dance performance.
Alfred Stieglitz, Thimble and Hands
Still it lacks the drama of Stieglitz or Mapplethorpe and maybe it's more in
the droll ilk of Fischli
and Weiss's Busi (Kitty
) lapping up milk?
Robert Mapplethorpe, Derrick Cross, 1983. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 in.
Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Still, Rauer's piece is essentially deconstructed choreography though without
the otherworldly polish of a strong professional dancer. Instead (because it
utilizes only the artist) its effect is more informal and familiar,
like a sun filled Sunday morning in bed with a lover or perhaps a mother nursing
a child. Also, instead of the often dehumanizing effect of deconstruction it
has the interesting effect of multiplying the humanistic inferences. On a technical
level It doesn't have Martha Graham's focus on contraction and release
either, so it doesn't have the tension of modern dance. This can put some
viewers off who have been groomed for entertainment and shaping sequence is
a lot more like observing sand dunes than a performance.
Martha Graham's Lamentation by Barbara Morgan
The fact that it's more akin to landscape photography also underscores the
well tamed technical component of the piece. The 3 channel video piece is streaming
uncompressed video off of hard drives rather than the digital artifact laden
compromise of using inferior DVD's as a playback material. This is very important
since the large areas of negative space here would look like they were infested
with blurry digital maggots if a DVD were used. The fact that Rauer has done something
technically demanding without calling much attention to the fact is a testament to the exhibition. It's what I expect from any video installation artist, never let the geeky technology component override the heuristic experience.
Douglas Gordaon's Play Dead: Real Time (2003) at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea
The work is most reminiscent of Douglas Gordon's Play Dead: Real Time, which
featured the fleshy expanse of a slow moving Indian Elephant... though Shaping
Sequence lacks his wit, technical command and kinesthetic mastery. There is
room for Rauer to grow still and Gordon is at the forefront.
Kelly Rauer's Shaping Sequence at NAAU
That critique withstanding, Shaping Sequence is one of the strongest solo shows
up this month of uninspired group shows. Still, I wonder how Rauer can further
develop these ideas without resorting to gimmicks or using professional dancers,
which would obliterate some of Shaping Sequence's charm? Then again watching
an artist develop is half the process by which they are measured.
In this case Shaping Sequence is a break out show for Kelly Rauer, who in the
past merely showed promise. For example, last year's installation at Manor of
Art tacked on additional installation elements that hamstrung the whole effect
of the otherwise competent if somewhat academic video piece. It's was a BFA
level mistake but suddenly Rauer isnt making them anymore. In fact Shaping
Sequence is a solid, even inspired show by anyone's standards with a quiet hard
won maturity you don't see from recent MFA grads either.
In short Shaping Sequence doesn't look so art school like it once
did... the question is, can she find a more original angle to continue the momentum
of this show?
Through September 19th 2010