Maximal and minimal Geometrics at Salon 1522

For Leigh Van Duzer and Heather Ramsdale, “Geometrics” at Salon 1522 (closed Mar. 30) was both a personally satisfying show and one that was affected, in an apropos way, by the space itself. Van Duzer’s and Ramsdale’s elevated realities — in digital prints and sculptures with an alpine sensibility — were fantastic to see at dusk, where Olde Kensington‘s spartan solemnity, heightened by the ruins of industry and the cats tracking your moves from underneath parked cars, provide an almost transcendent backdrop to the Salon’s contents. That, and the fact that “Geometrics” was the first time Van Duzer and Ramsdale had done a two-person show together gave the exhibition a feeling of particular anticipation and care, and one whose development had allowed both artists to evolve since their student days at Penn.

Leigh Van Duzer, "Untitled (Mountain)." 2011. 20" x 38" x 12". Archival pigment print.
Leigh Van Duzer, “Untitled (Mountain).” 2011. 20″ x 38″ x 12″. Archival pigment print.


Leigh Van Duzer, detail of "Horse Head," 2011. 12" x 20" x 12". Archival pigment print.
Leigh Van Duzer, detail of “Horse Head,” 2011. 12″ x 20″ x 12″. Archival pigment print.

As a photographer, Van Duzer is a magpie, incorporating organic forms into landscapes and cutting archival prints into primal, evocative shapes. Her Photoshop creations are a digital filigree, mash-ups made from her own collection of photographs and photos found in the Library of Congress archives. A horse’s skull seems made of mountains, structural supports transformed into an abdomen; her works soothe and also generate a sense of adventure. Losing yourself in the works’ undulating details is a journey into worlds both internal and external.

Leigh Van Duzer, "Sunset Mountain," 2011. 16" x 20". Archival pigment print.
Leigh Van Duzer, “Sunset Mountain,” 2011. 16″ x 20″. Archival pigment print.

Van Duzer has an excellent sense of how to moderate all the textures she’s incorporated.

Heather Ramsdale, detail from "Black Thunder." 2011, 5' x 2.5' x 4. Mixed media.
Heather Ramsdale, detail from “Black Thunder.” 2011, 5′ x 2.5′ x 4. Mixed media.

Heather Ramsdale’s pieces, on the other hand, use a sleek minimalist approach. Her tongue-in-cheek remarks with sculpture, found objects and decorating materials is a far cry from previous more difficult works, which disinvited the viewer from any personal connection; case in point, the torture chamber she showed at Jolie Laide in 2010, in whose harsh right angles and bright lights I saw a particularly harsh interpretation of a tanning bed or an MRI machine. Here instead, Ramsdale has elected for the warmth of familiarity all while maintaining a witty edge, calling up outer space, cliffs and glaciers in a collection of mundane surfaces, textures and especially, the 50s-style animal figurine of “Black Thunder.”

Heather Ramsdale, "Bird in Space," 2013. 2' x 3' x 2'. Mixed media.
Heather Ramsdale, “Bird in Space,” 2013. 2′ x 3′ x 2′. Mixed media.

“Bird in Space,” weds black laminate for the “space” component with a bird figurine; across the room, a similar untitled structure could have been called “Bird on Ice,” its use of white marble cleverly evoking ice.

Heather Ramsdale, "Awkward," 2011. Mixed media.
Heather Ramsdale, “Awkward,” 2011. Mixed media.

The artist’s humor reveals itself in “Awkward,” where a tree stump forms an ersatz pelvis on which a marble plank rests, halfheartedly angled outwards. Here is the best piece of evidence that Ramsdale, aware of the criticism that’s likely to come to those who make this sort of found object art, is ready to argue the point, in a humorous fashion. Her found object sculptures make wry use of the ubiquitous and ordinary for poetic purposes; here, she makes a literal come-on to viewers, lampooning the very need for artists to feel accepted and desired. 

Heather Ramsdale, "Untitled," 2011. Mixed media.
Heather Ramsdale, “Untitled,” 2011. Mixed media.

Altogether, Van Duzer’s photography and Ramsdale’s mixed media installations dovetail into a shared adoration of organic details, evidenced in the harmony and wonderful tactility between Ramsdale’s untitled, mountain-evoking piece over the fireplace and Van Duzer’s “Mountain.” After that, their sensibilties branch off and go their separate ways, Van Duzer to the realm of painterly photo manipulation, and Ramsdale to a creative use of synthetic materials and found objects as simulators of nature.

This show closed March 30 at Salon 1522, 1522 N. Lawrence St., 856-979-8159,