Bohr and order

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Vox Populi member Doug Bohr‘s solo exhibit in two rooms at Vox Populi is a spare, elegant hot-air balloon ride over the earth delivered through maps, a found book, and a few nicely-placed sculptural objects.

To call the exhibit minimal doesn’t really get to the heart of it although there is a restraint that borders on zen understatement.

Bohr’s maps — free-hand renderings in gold leaf and gouache on mylar — interpret demographic information about the world’s resources and populations. They feel like they’re from a Victorian gentleman’s museum, one fueled by a quest to know the world, to research, catalog, cull, interpret and exhibit the results of some obsessive study. And indeed the artist told me he’s a long-time collector of atlases

Even without the labels — “Major Wheat Harvest,” “Lesser Gross National Product, Illiteracy and Mortality,” etc. — I knew I was in Mercator map territory, so familiar are the suggestions of continents and the scatter-plot like effect of the data.

There’s social commentary here, of course, most pronounced in the sculpture — a foot rest made of cast plaster and wax that holds a regal red velvet pillow and a group of cast plastic bullhorns. (top image) The pillow has the word “order” screenprinted on it and in the context of the bullhorns the word’s meanings are plentiful — world order, law and order, orderly protest — it’s all in there.

In another piece, “Self Reliance,” Bohr has photographed a number of open pages from Emerson’s book. The framed photographs run across the wall and make a beautiful horizontal strip of color that is a counterpoint to the more free-form-looking maps.

The book is a found book, and it’s been heavily marked with highlighter by the previous owner, perhaps a student — at any rate a serious reader trying to figure it out and learn. The piece is a great counterpoint to the maps and sculpture.

Where “Order’s maps took me was into the world of connections — globalism in all its good and bad meanings. That’s a place where we sink or swim together.

“Self Reliance” on the other hand, goes to a particularly American philosophy, one that has been distilled and parodied into a jingoistic isolationism and a “let them pull themselves up by their own boot straps” attitude which, our, ahem, political leaders seem to be relying on in our foreign policy these days.

Anyway, go check out the show and think about the world. The artist gives a gallery talk tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.

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