Infinitely transcendental big nothing

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The show “Infinitely Visible” on the first floor at the Print Center seems to hit the material extremes, from Robert Asman’s lush photos of clouds (shown) transformed by some chemical hoodoo and Mike Stifel’s prints of chemical tracks. It’s another one of the Big Nothing shows scattered around town.

At this point I should probably mention that Asman has contributed to artblog, although I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can say how much I liked the clouds and especially the chemically altered spaces between, which had metallic rainbows that went flat or substantial, creating black holes and tinted wholes, depending on your literal point of view.

The work, which packed some spiritual oomph and opera, brought to mind Frederic Church (left Church’s “Icebergs”) and other Transcendental artists, whose paintings of the universe’s splendor reflected the spiritual optimism of their times. Asman’s work is darker, the frontier of space and chemical play not quite as welcoming as the ends of the earth in oils, but that sense of amazement is still at play.

Asman’s chemical play made the reductive white prints of Stifel have more resonance than they might have had on their own. Stifel’s pure white surfaces embossed with single arcs or lines are supposed to track the movement of subatomic particles. The work is so very austere and controlled and reductive that, like its subject matter, its materiality has lost its meaning. The pieces do not stand without their explanation.

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