Sunday, May 28, 2006

National Juried Show, Sun Hong, & Venus 7


This weekend I went to a few art shows at Atlanta's Eyedrum Gallery. One had the
(pictured left, Jeffry Loy's Papula Arboretum)

unfortunately generic moniker of National Juried Exhibition 2006. (Juried/Curated by George Kinghorn of the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art). A funky converted warehouse space where experimental sound art, music, spoken word and various fine art mediums are featured and that's the name they come up with for their annual show? I guess until the annual show gets righteous national props for being a "national juried exhibition" it will suffer under that title. Perhaps they're just slyly cutting to the chase as that wording is often employed as a descriptive for lesser known group exhibits. As a sometime curator I am biased towards a unifying theme, something that gives me a sense of the curator's vision.

There were some pieces that I found compelling, Jim and the EEOC an embroidered piece by Judith Simmons who playful utilizes the typically feminine domestic art to portray egregious male behavior in the typically masculine corporate terrain. Veering sharply from home-spun homilies (e.g. "there's no place like home") into graphic novel terrain, the framed piece offers the receding view of the Jim of the title with stitched narration confirming his being simultaneously comforted and led away by a male security guard as a thought bubble evidences Jim's contemplating the consequences of his act of sexual harrasment: mistaking a woman's breast for an elevator button. Employing such a surreally absurd "hallucination," and having essentially faceless figures is a humorous intervention on the dehumanizing aspects of corporate culture on both men and women.

Then there was a mixed media piece whose title caught me short, J. Geils Band, only because I think no one except New England people would still remember who they were, although their one big hit, "Centerfold," was in serious MTV rotation in the 80s. Prior to that they were a hard-working blues-based all-white Boston bar band. Really tight from playing so many live shows. Nevertheless I could not make the connections Dorothy Love put forth in the piece. What did two hanging sleeveless ceramic dresses, plastic astroturf, a tiny plastic yellow chick, and a mix of blue patterned textile backgrounds have to do with the band? There must be some capricious memories associated with the band.

I turned and there was Jeffrey Loy's botanical spectacle, Papula Arboretum (see image above left). I'd love to know who besides art institutions and really high-level (deep-pocketed) individual collectors actually collects electronic-based installation art? It can be space consuming, expensive (Loy's asking price: $22,500), eat up your electricity bill, plus needing at least occasional if not regular maintenance--and you can't just call in the local electrician (two segments of the piece looked to already be on the fritz). Many installations are worth it if you can afford all that. But lately I've become curious as to what and who, beyond the usual suspects, comprises this specialized market.

Featuring slender elongated leaves of mild and stainless steel, the kinetic sculpture ends in "buds" (the papula of the title) of oscillating and static security monitors. Loy's potential blooms contain images of blinking and gazing eyes directed at varying angles, and the piece artfully incorporates clear-tubing sheathed electronic cables and wiring panels into the plant life. The deflated pose of the leaves begs the question of their fade or impending flourish, but the little Mary Richard's upward bobb at their ends encourages the latter assumption. The inclusion of the COBY® brand in the looped monitor display highlights a less than innocuous notion of electronic papula in the age of Homeland Security: A minute projection on the surface of a stigma, petal, or leaf. (emphasis mine; American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition).

More Noodles in My Soup: Recent work by Sun Hong
Local artist Sun Hong was having her second solo show, at Eyedrum's small gallery (pictured below, Hong at the entrance to her show ) a small exhibit of medium-small pen and ink drawings on large paper. One attendee after playfully arguing with his friend over which one each liked the best, asked Hong about a particularly spare work in which a thin line split into two and then rejoined itself. "Was that a conscious act on your part or did it just happen" Hong laughingly replied, "Everything is conscious." I'm still ruminating over the implications of that declaration (i.e. pairing it with various scenarios, similar to the old joke where you end every sentence with the phrase "in bed"). I liked the work, it did feel conscious, but not belaboredly so and not absent of pointedly venturing into the unknown. I too liked the minimal, open piece, it had an aspect of particular detail along with an embrace of expansive space. Its a conscious juxtaposition I can appreciate.

Venus 7
Although I couldn't stay for the actual show, the soundcheck for Georgia-based Venus 7, fronted by the multi-talented vocalist/instrumentalists Dorothy V Bell and Ingrid Sibley was already heating up the joint with the great vocal arrangments and cross-melodic interplay between the two with great harmonies. Plus these young women can sang, both as little as reeds, but that's all a saxophone needs (ouch, did I say that? Yeah! And it's true!). One has soaring virtuosity, the other made the mic into an afterthought, and they even shared a guitar--proving they know how to work together. That doesn't even speak to the tight backing band, three brothers on drums, bass, and guitar, seriously working the alt-rock-funk groove. I had never heard of them (I truly just came for the visual art), but I was so taken with listening and watching them that by the time I remembered to take out my camera and line up a shot they had just were ending the check and already unplugging.

Fortunately, I spoke to one of their friends who told me about the group's website in progress, in the meantime you'll have to go to Venus 7's myspace.com page to check out their image and sample some of their music. According to the site they are "pixies wearing hotpants while sprinkling afrolicious dust." Know that while the selections there are really good unless you've got some quality computer speakers, they don't even compare to the soundcheck, much less their live sound. Plus, no disrespect but, sound mixing (engineering) for streaming internet is an art still in its relative infancy. So look for them live. They'll be at Django on June 7th.

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