Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reviews at a Glance

Before the end of the month I thought I would throw out here a couple brief reviews of shows that I was able to catch up on this past month. There will be a lack of images this month because I was not prepared when going gallery hoping. So, unless the gallery web sites made images available you probably won't see one.

Positive Acts: Art, Awareness & Activism at Big Car North, is an invitational art exhibit focusing on HIV/AIDS, organized and curated by Robert Evans III. Proceeds from the sales of work was to go to benefit the Damien Center. This was a well presented show with a nice variety of works and artists. The show had everything from sculpture, painting, photography, to purely conceptual pieces. For me the stand out piece in the show, was from artist MaryAnne Nguyen. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the title of the piece, sorry. What I most liked about the piece was the economy of means in its production. Simple, near calligraphic, red line drawings of people both back to back and facing, on simple white panels. A number of similar panels displayed stacked one above the other. In a show that deals with such issues as HIV and Aids, art works can often start to feel heavy handed and preachy but in this particular piece, it is the subtlety that pulls you in, allowing the viewer the time to read their own narrative into the piece. Over all I would say it is a fine show with a handful of some really nice pieces. You should go and check it out by appointment if possible before it comes down.

Still Life+Death, new paintings by Brian Myers at the Stutz Art Gallery. Numerous friends came to me the night this show opened and told me I just had to go see this show as they liked the show greatly. I had been looking forward to seeing Brian's newest works but due to other obligations had to wait a week before I was able to go and see the show. To be completely honest, I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was the build up, the high expectations I had set in my mind, after all so many people I know were talking about the show and liked it, thought it was one of the top shows so far this year. Perhaps it is. To start, it is a wonderfully ambitious show of paintings, with images that appear to be taken from newspapers, magazines, CNN, etc. Dealing with issues of natural disasters, war, bombs, borders, and politics. A lot for one artist to deal with in a single show. For the past couple years we have all been bombarded with these images in the news as fleeting glimpses and the visual equivalent to sound bites. Will these same images as paintings allow for us to contemplate these images more, to give more meaning to them, than our possible numbness to seeing them on TV? These are the things this show makes me wonder. In that, the show is successful. Strangely enough, the show does not take a stance on the issues depicted in the paintings, rather it appears to be just showing the viewer a selection of images which they can read into as they please. Part of me really enjoys this aspect of the show as I tend to not like political/activist art that is preachy. But the area in which I say I was a bit disappointed was not in the selection of the images but rather the final execution of them. There seems to be a lack of confidence in the paint handling which I had not expected. Many of the paintings felt unfinished and more like underpaintings. This seemed out of place to me as I typically like the way he handles the paint in his work. For a good example of his skills check out the small painting, "Smart Bomb (study)". This was my favorite piece in the show, a handsome little painting, clean, strong, and confident. I can see now that Brian is pushing himself into unexplored territory. Becoming more ambitious in his painting attempts. For all of this I applaud him, we need much more of that in this city. I look forward to seeing what his next body of work will be. And despite the fact that the show may not have lived up to the expectations I had set for it in my mind, I still think the show is worth a look. Can paintings of these images have a greater impact after all? I think maybe they can.

Show Us Your Drawers at Herron Gallery is a juried exhibition of contemporary furniture design with work by 30 nationally known furniture design artists. This show will complement the Furniture Society's national conference also hosted by Herron. If you have a liking for contemporary furniture design and in particular, items with drawers, then this is the show for you. You have a little bit of everything in this show from traditional looking pieces to more conceptual works. Big pieces and small pieces, wood pieces and metal pieces. So much to look at. I would say that it is a nice show in that it gives you a broad view of what is going on in contemporary furniture design. I regret not having asked if it was ok to open some of the drawers as instinct tells you to do. Though I did hear from a friend later that one of the gallerists took them through and opened some of the drawers adding to their experience. One I hear makes sounds. Unfortunately I have no images from this show and none were available on the web site. So if you can, check out the show for yourself if furniture so suits you. The one thing I hate about seeing a show like this is the fact that I always have to go back home to my crappy discount particle board and veneered furniture that is both mismatched and without style or substance. I guess I will have to wait for the day that I can either afford custom made furniture or find a furniture designer who is willing to trade for one of my art works. A boy can dream can't he?

Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works with Light at the IMA. I think this is the best show I have seen this month. Kind of a shock to me actually as I never really liked Nauman's neon pieces much. Well let me also state that I had mainly seen them only in books and magazines before with the exception of one piece I had seen in person. It was a very hot day when I went to the IMA to see this show with a friend and I am glad I did. Seeing these pieces in the nice cool rooms at the IMA made for a nice, casual experience for such a day where I hate going outside. The pieces are given plenty of room of their own to live and breath. And while I was expecting the neon and the text to be most notable, I must say that I was quite drawn in by the clicks and hums of the transformers and other electronic equipment it takes to keep these pieces going. And how these extra components become a major part of the piece. I was wrong about these pieces before I saw them in person. I now must say that I like them. Take a cool relaxing break this summer and walk through darkened rooms to see Bruce Nauman's neon light works. I think you will be glad you did. [picture is of Bruce Nauman's piece, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), 1967.]

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