Shadows, falsehood and deceit

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Time’s winged chariot is drawing near for the March shows. So let me put up something quick about the work at Vox Populi that will leave before April.

In the front rooms were a show by the gloriously decorative Kate Abercrombie, “Four O’Clocks and Morning Glories,” Kelley Roberts’ faux-tographic “fauna,” Roxana Perez-Mendez’s video installation “Puerto Rico Airlines,” and an installation, “Bridgehead,” by Brian Dennis who is having his final show at Vox after 15 years (after all, Vox is an emerging artist coop).

Abercrombie’s gouache’s and hand-printed wallpaper installation are exuberant overgrowths of flowers invading and concealing our interior spaces. They’re beautifully done, the compositions practically trembling with color and pattern. The wallpaper would be tough to live with, but its presence under the little gouaches creates an aura of domestic decoration (image above, an untitled gouache landscape and right, the wallpaper with a couple of the gouache paintings).

Roberts is also mulling over our borrowing from nature to create something fictional, I think. She has cut out creatures like bees (left, “Bees”) or mice from a storybook vision of nature, only their missing shape remaining, in the surface photo. Underneath is another layer, the edges of the missing shapes creating shadows. There’s some eco thinking here of wildlife gone missing from the world, but there’s also some thought about the false perfection of nature as we have imagined it and rewritten it. The more saccharine the setting, the more successful these pieces are.


Perez-Mendez’s two-channel video installation (right), creates a faux Puerto Rico Airlines, with endless flight delays, incompetency and the same stewardess (probably the airline’s only employee, Perez-Mendez herself) announcing endless flight delays and other signs of PRA incompetence. Installed to resemble cheesy airport arrival-and-departure monitors, the videos are a little expected and lighter than air. Perez had a wonderful out-of-this-world video installation last year at Temple Gallery (see post), playing a bored, shallow astronaut painting her nails and reading cheesy magazines aboard a space station. The deadpan juxtaposition of space and its ordinary bored moments was hilarious.

Dennis’ retreating metal wedge, “Bridgehead,” is a hanging, receding metal boardwalk of oxidized gold metal leaf concealing a chaos of back-lit, unpainted sticks that throw light shadows on the walls. The work suggests illusion and delusion, what’s hidden and revealed, and truth and shadows. Roberta reminded me that Dennis had a swell piece at the Art Alliance last year (see post), a grand gesture that took over the grand staircase, obscuring the window with sticks and brown paper–a protest against repressive national security measures. The concerns in “Bridgehead” are pretty similar, but the lines from the ceiling supporting the receding highway or boardwalk undermines some of the elegance and strength.

Roberta already told you about Jonathan Berger’s “Goner” installation (post here), and I have to say it’s a two thumbs up (four thumbs? two from her, two from me?). The good news is that it’s up for another month. But I do want to add that the space deliberately squeezes and cramps. It’s tough to take a giant step, coralled into small walkways. It’s tough to stand up straight with lamps hovering low. I love installations that give a physical sensation of a particular space–in this one a coffin, a cemetery, a sense of losing a vision of the horizon . Even the rollercoasters made me think thoughts of the fragility of life, of exuberance easily snuffed.

Much to my surprise, two young women who were in the room at the same time I was seemed quite dissatisfied by the piece. That’s why there’s apples and oranges.

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