Friday, August 28, 2009

My first art review for Creative Loafing!

Unfortunately it's only online. Sad face!

Meg Aubrey, Daniel Biddy, Donna Johnson, and Dosa Kim. Click here to read "Ones to Watch shows ATL as a dialog of differences."

(Art by Dosa Kim)


Thursday, August 27, 2009

I just realized that

I missed the Bacon show at the MET. It closed Aug. 16, and, now, my soul feels sad. Some locals here recently told me it was grand, a one-of-a-kind experience, despite the fact they don't consider themselves Francis Bacon fans. I wanted to see it, but a random trip to NY just isn't in the cards for me right now. I think I would've visited multiple times, even though Mr. Critic Contrary lacks my enthusiasm. Actually, I'm certain I would have, in between visiting P.S.1 and the Cloisters, two spots I missed the fist time around.

I've only visited NY one time, and hated it. It made my soul sad. Was I wrong? Did I just miss out? And there are so many other places; they say I should go to Art Basel; they say I should go to Chicago, and San Francisco, and



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

[updated] Deanna Sirlin at Whitespace

Review|Deanna Sirlin: Everything is Optional
Whitespace Gallery; April 17—May 16, 2009; ArtVoices, June 2009

Deanna Sirlin compares her work to the lecture style of Salman Rushdie, the current writer-in-residence at Emory University: Her circular brushstrokes are “like” Rushdie’s baffling circles of logic that, through a sublime intellectual sleight-of-hand, achieve clarity at the last possible moment. Of course, Sirlin’s paintings and Salman Rushdie have about as much in common … as horseshoe crabs and swine flu. Still, even if Sirlin’s very (and truly) harmless simile falls short, it raises the more interesting question of interpretation and translation.

Take for instance 33 1/3, a work Sirlin installed at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2001. 33 1/3 is essentially an abstract painting, produced by hand and then digitally blown up and superimposed on an existing museum window. The product is a semitransparent floor-to-ceiling image; you can’t see through the window per se, but it permits the free passage of sunlight by day, or museum lights by night. 33 1/3’s numerical title refers to the revolutions of a spinning record, an association designed to pay homage to New Orleans’ music. As in her other public art projects, Sirlin attempts to match her “perception of the site buildings’ architecture” and the flavor of “the city in which they are a part.” So … is the work a successful translation of New Orleans culture?

Everything is Optional, Sirlin’s latest exhibition at Whitespace Gallery, is concerned with the process of translation. Less so in her large-scale abstractions (executed in the same style as her public art paintings, but without a digital intermediary), Sirlin’s installations are sculptural translations—from the language of two-dimensional drawing to that of metal. Each work began as a tiny drawing in Sharpie marker that, as before, is then blown up and programmed into a machine. The finished sculptures are irrevocably physical, metallic incarnations of abstract line: circles, ellipses, and, for lack of a better word, squiggles. The works are interesting, insofar as they both evade recognition while still recalling the sinuous strokes of the original Sharpie. But in this case, the virtue is also a vice: Sirlin’s “translations” seem little improved over the breakfast-table exercises they initially were. Further, her use of technology as a transformative medium fails to surpass the ingenuity of local artists half her age (see my comments on Kathryn Refi’s Color Recordings, ArtVoices, October, 2008, p. 44).

Of course, the comparison wouldn’t be necessary if Sirlin didn’t market herself as an artist of “digital media.” Although I’m generally not a fan of primary colors, her large traditional paintings show a confident command of asymmetry, a fact no doubt solidified by her 30 years’ experience in the medium.

And although her New Orleans installation, 33 1/3, is neither an interpretation nor a translation of the city in which it lives, the painting style at least incorporates the host building’s architecture. The work succeeds in signifying a bland and very tame modernism, an apolitical escapism of color, in which vanity exceeds substance.


[updated] William Boling and Corinne Vionnet

Review|William Boling and Corinne Vionnet: Complete Desire
Opal Gallery; February 12—April 4, 2009; ArtVoices, May 2009

Laughter, forgetting, globalization, alienation — I see many things in Complete Desire, the photographic collaboration by William Boling and Corinne Vionnet. But at first I had difficulty seeing anything that resembled “completion” or “desire.”

The series is organized into triptychs of seemingly unrelated images from geographically distinct locales. The left-hand photo of Panel No. 18, for instance, captures a moment in Vionnet’s home in Vevey, Switzerland, while the right-hand side is a patch of green space near Atlanta’s East Lake transit station. Snapshots taken by Vionnet include Villefontaine, France, Kew Garden in London, and even a “train for Geneva.” By contrast, Boling’s photos were taken within the United States during various daytrips throughout Georgia. Boling and Vionnet met over the internet and, until the exhibition opening, “spoke” almost exclusively though images instead of words.

The “completion/desire” puzzle only deepens when one considers the two-year process used to create Complete Desire: One artist emailed the first image to the other who — without “peeking” — responded with a second image. The images were then revealed, and the second artist completed the triptych by choosing the final image. Each work, then, is not only the product of two creative minds but also a significant degree of chance.

So, desire is metaphorically “completed” through a kind of modified Hegelian dialectic, a fact that makes works such as Panel No. 16 all the more interesting. In the first image, we see a vehicle interior centered on a pair of female legs in stockings. A thumb enters the picture from below; the subtle contrast — between her pale skin and dark nylons (covered v. uncovered flesh) — evokes a sense of vulnerability. The femininity, in turn, contrasts with the genderless icons in the photo on our right, a closeup of a car dashboard. Isolated out of context, each icon “represents” a generic, almost hieroglyphic human being, shown in profile without arms (or even a neck). The air conditioner dial directs our eyes to the little arrow pointing to the passenger’s knees, an almost knowing gesture towards the female knees at left, as well as the man kneeling in the scene at center: a long exterior shot that looks down on an all but deserted neighborhood street.

Is this man locked out of the car? By the same woman who, embarrassed to look him in the eye, is staring at her lap (or at random dials on the dashboard)? Perhaps the central photo — viewed through a building window (evidenced by tell-tale reflections and glares of sunlight) — was taken by a private detective? Of course, domestic betrayal is merely one of many possible interpretations.

The visual themes mentioned above recur throughout the series: human figures visible only in profile, or in partial anatomy; obscured vision, often blurred by motorized travel; or scenes visible only through glass or reflections in a rear view mirror. Complete Desire follows an aesthetic of modern estrangement that, by willfully engaging in alienation, exorcises it by way of catharsis.