Sunday, June 9, 2013

shapeless shapes and invisible bodies

I don't know what it was -- both yesterday and today I went to see some art exhibits, and on both days I spent a whole lot of time looking at only a little bit of what I wanted to see.

Yesterday I went to the Arvada Center, where there are three interesting exhibits going on. But I only saw one: the work Perception: Color | Line | Pattern, which is down in the main floor gallery of the center. The exhibit basically explores abstract work from the last few decades.

The argument of the exhibit seems to be that the artists of these works were trying to create works without any visual direction. Art leading up to the modern phase was based on a cultured sense of vision that had the ability to read, say, a landscape painting the same way a literate person could read a novel. Modern art, the exhibit argues, if I understand it correctly, is an art without the visual cues that previous art had been informed with. It's art that doesn't have a visual narrative, or even a visual direction.

I'm not sure I agree with that idea. But I love the art at the exhibit. The selection and arrangement of the art is wonderful. Some of the pieces have a style like weaving or sewing or embroidery, like the works of Charlie DiJulio, in which ribbons or threads of color are painted across a wide canvas, or some wonderful yarn staircases done by Andrew Higgins.

Another set of works I like are by Jen Pack. These works use rectangular cushions arranged in wide, shallow v-shapes. The cushions are sewn over with wide strips of chiffon. These strips feel like mosaic tiles, in a way. In this sense, the work is kind of complemented by the work of Adam Holloway, which utilizes imagery like mosaic rectangles and pixelation.

Some of the work employs basic shapes. One interesting painting by Charles Richert is of colorful circles arranged in tight patterns before a white background. The patterns could be cell patterns or molecular or atomic organizations. The color schemes almost reminded me of the color schemes in the paintings of Lee Krasner.

There is a whole corner of the exhibit devoted almost entirely to the work of Marty Jaquis. His work is devoted to painting and making sculptures using brightly colored squares and cubes. The cubes, even in the sculptures, are often only two-dimensional. But they feel three-dimensional, often giving an interesting sense of space-distortion.

Another set of works I really liked are by the artist Vance Kirkland. These works place paint dots, of various sizes and densities of spacing, against fading backgrounds. The variations in density and size of the paint dots create an illusion of bubbles swelling up on the canvas. But something about the dots and colors also looks like it would belong on an ocean fish or a sea anemone.

There is also a lovely interactive work, but I can't remember who it's by. It's on an LED screen. It looks like a cubist/abstract painting. But it's in motion. Cameras nearby track nearby movement and color and allow those movements and colors to affect the patterns on the screen. I had a few different colors on me, so I could play around a lot to see the colors change and patterns shift. It was a lot of fun.

But I spent so much time in this gallery that I didn't have time to check out the other two exhibits. I did the same thing at the Denver Art Museum this morning. I went to see the exhibit of Sojourn, a collection of work by the Chicago artist Nick Cave. I had been planning to see some of the exhibits of the DAM's Spun program as well, but I spent so much time in the Nick Cave exhibit that I couldn't go see anything else.

The Nick Cave exhibit is really interesting. It's divided into two selections of work, basically: his "soundsuits" and his garden-like bead sculptures. The bead sculptures are dense pilings of chains of beads, all gathered onto metal frameworks of branches. Then, inside of these dense branches of beads, there are placed scluptures of things like birds and fruit, leafs and flowers. The feeling of density reminds me, not of abundance, but of overgrowth, like a tree that has been overgrown by vines. Some of these masses of branches and bead-vines grow over couches or chairs or stools. Sometimes life-size sculptures of dogs are sitting on the furniture. In one case the bead structure is gathered over the head of a mannequin in something like a knit or crocheted bodysuit.

The soundsuits are kind of similar to the crocheted mannequin. Apparently Cave came up with the idea of soundsuits after having watched television footage of the beating of Rodney King in the early 1990s. Cave felt a desire for some kind of protection against the violence and hatred of the world. He ca e up with the idea of soundsuits.

This makes sense. The soundsuits are kind of like gaudy shells made to go over the body. Some of the soudsuits have tall, thin, steeply arched spikes going up over the head, like the scabbard for a sword. These "scabbards" can extend downward over the body like a skirt or dress. Other soundsuits may bemade of brightly colored "fur," like something on a Sesame Street character. Other soundsuits might simply be of crocheted bodysuits, but with things spiking our of the suits, like steel branches with tin noisemaker toys, or globes, at the ends of them. One room is full of soudsuits in all different varieties, but with a constant of being made almost entirely of shiny, white buttons.

The soundsuits all have a cconstant style of being reminiscent of traditional dress -- like traditional Latin American or Caucasian or Asian or African dress. But there is also a feeling of the suits being a kind of astral body or an aura-egg. This wouldnt be so surprising. A soundsuit could be thought of as an "aural" suit. So an "aural" suit and an aura-egg wouldn't be too different.

One last room of the exhibit is devoted to videos of people actually performing in the soundsuits. The performances of the people dancing in the furry soundsuits are my favorite.