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Tuesday 08.17.10

« The Essentials, a discussion | Main | Art Spark: TBA:10 »

Kelly Rauer's Shaping Sequence at NAAU

"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 isn’t 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

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 17, 2010 at 13:48 | Comments (0)


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