Dangerous home life–Gail Cunningham at Bambi

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We all know that internet images of art lie. But I still got whipsawed by how much they lie when I stopped in to see “Social Diagrams,” an exhibit of cut paper art by Gail Cunningham at Bambi Projects.

Gail Cunnningham, Army Ant Couch, 44 x 36 inches, card stock
Gail Cunnningham, Army Ant Couch, 44 x 36 inches, card stock

I was thinking something girly and domestic and small. But the work is surprisingly large in scale, and the home-inspired environments and objects are far from safe. Buildings twist, an army of ants belches from the stuffing of a settee, stool legs bend and blueprint-like cross-sections of buildings look unsafe, with chutes and ladders, piles of debris and doors to nowhere.

Gail Cunningham, Detention Center II, 27.5 x 22 inches, charcoal paper, 2009
Gail Cunningham, Detention Center II, 27.5 x 22 inches, charcoal paper, 2009

Cut paper is quite the trend these days, but this work is more personal and modest than the cut paper work of Philly’s boy cut paper wizards Hunter Stabler and Joe Boruchow, or the exuberant street art and sculptural cuttings of New York artist Swoon.

But Cunnningham is fierce, using the process of cutting to express anger. Her work is intimate. There’s also a generous dose of broader content–the fragility of life, the difficulty of relationships, the vulnerability of all of us and how we struggle to build safety around ourselves. The delicacy of the medium seems a good fit for work that’s not so safe after all. I’ve got two small quibbles. The main one is  the frames that domineer over the work’s edginess. The other is the missed opportunity of using the natural tendency of this medium to explore artistic issues of positive and negative spaces.

As far as the cut paper itself and the imagery go, what’s not to love? The exhibit runs to Sept. 27.

Tags

bambi, gail cunningham

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