Optic Fiber at University City Arts League

Optic Fiber is a restrained, elegant exhibition juxtaposing two very different approaches to working with textiles and objects. With Doug Witmer’s thoughtful organizing and light curatorial touch, the show at University City Arts League leaves adequate room for Fjord Gallery member Lindsay Chandler’s loud, knitted, and woven pieces to converse formally with Ana B. Hernandez’s blanched, fragile arrangements of natural and artificial things.

Lindsay Chandler, Untitled, 2011, various yarns over wood.

It’s fun to try to unravel Chandler’s making process. Her largest displayed work, the rambunctious “Untitled” (2011), is a roughshod weaving on magenta-painted board, in which whole skeins of yarn have been shoved gleefully through a warp of orange-pink tape. The piece demonstrates an expert awareness of color relationships, as in a layered abstract painting. Instead of glazes, scrapings, and drips, there are overlaps, bulges, and drooping swathes of wool.

Lindsay Chandler, Untitled, 2012, various yarns over wood with acrylic.

Chandler’s newer works move away from the rectangular format of traditional painting towards a play with spatiality that complements and informs the viewing of Hernandez’s subtle near-reliefs. Knitted with a 1980s hobbyist-level machine and stretched over a jutting, wooden V-shape, Chandler’s “Untitled” (2012) bubbles with tiny, empty pockets of autumnal-colored yarn. Hinting at landscape–or, rather, one of those crazy, countryside scene sweater projects that my mother might have loved back in the day–the piece marries kitsch with a strong sense of working out actual formal problems.

Ana B. Hernandez, Unformatted, 2011, shells, hard drive parts, thread, wax.

Last year, I saw many of 40th Street AIR artist Ana B. Hernandez’s pale, delicate pieces in her solo show at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. With their near-monochrome appearance and careful placement of natural form with, in some cases, miniscule computer parts, the works felt drily conceptual, like prompts to consider contemporary uses of organic and technological objects. However, hung beside Chandler’s latest constructions and viewed through their lens, “Wish You Were Here” (2011) is suddenly a little kitschy too. Souvenirs collected during a walk the artist took along 500 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago, Europe’s oldest pilgrimage route, the shells contain almost illegible depictions in salt of bones, buildings, and, perhaps, sacred patterns.

Ana B. Hernandez, Wish You Were Here, 2011, scallop shells, salt, thread.

In a fiber context, the tactility of Hernandez’s works–and their gentle play with light and shadow–also comes to the fore. Mothering the Pearl (2009) is a narrow stack of silk ripples and hanging threads.  The work’s light-reflectiveness is contemplative and rather like one of Agnes Martin’s quavery, linear drawings in the way it pulls at the eye to scan for meaning. The artist’s concerns with femininity and community, seen in this work, provide a helpful structure through which to view Chandler’s adventurous takes on hobbyism.

Ana B. Hernandez, Mothering The Pearl, 2009, silk, thread, synthetic fibers.

Optic Fiber runs until September 28. University City Arts League is open 10am-7pm Monday to Friday.