Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Aldrich Revisited

Meticulously rendered is how one can describes a majority of the exhibits on view currently at the Aldrich. We headed out to see Charlotte Schulz's exhibit during the opening reception on September 15.
I believe there are five separate exhibits at the Museum right now.
On the first floor, Marti Cormand's work consists of highly photo realistic works of rugged, remote landscapes rendered in oil or watercolor, many with monochromatic scenes highlighted with the components of a highly colored, fantastical infrastructure. My favorite works were the black and white watercolor pieces with the additions of these cartoon structures. The larger oils had less substance and seemed to exist more for the demonstration of technical prowess than any other purpose, and another series of oil on paper pieces, though wonderfully rendered began to feel gimmicky.
As I walked into in the gallery of James Prosek's exhibit "Life and Death-A Visual Taxonomy," something struck a note of familiarity within me. Later, I recalled having read and clipped out an
Inc. magazine article from 1999 about a brand and mini-merchandising industry being created around a precocious 23 year old angler and illustrator. That brand in the making was James Prosek.
This current exhibit follows the meme of the naturalist as artist, a la James Audubon. This exhibit is very much like a contemporized Audubon redux, except, I don't see anything being either added to the vernacular or exploiting it for conceptual purposes as others have done . I don't mean to take anything away from him, but to equate the addition of decorative, colored contour lines emanating from the extremities of Prosek's illustrated birds with "his increasing conceptual approach to his work" is a stretch. These colored arcs of 'conceptualism' feel more akin to what I'd expect to find on a throw pillow on the Golden Girls' sofa. The truly engrossing part of this exhibit is the collection of taxidermied birds laid out on either their backs and bellies on small platforms floating about three or four feet off the ground. The elegance and sensitivity conveyed by these specimens in the manner in which they've been prepared, by the artist himself, could almost stand alone as an exhibit - minus the clever arcs of red decorating the platforms on which they sit. The exhibition literature invokes the names of Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman as Shazia Sikhander and Nusra Latif Qureshi as sharing qualities with Prosek's work. But Prosek is not Mark Dion, and framing his work in such terms feels as if Martha Stewart were allowed to claim jump on Andrea Zittel's territory.

Next was Charlotte's show, "A Insufficiency in our screens," and by far, it's the one I enjoyed most. I know I sound like a major hometown booster, but that is my assessment. I enjoy her work, although there is so much imagery blending together that it's really hard to digest in one short sitting, and with so many pieces together, it's a lot to take in. But the show is installed well, the pieces work well on the rust colored walls, which we learned from Charlotte's' husband is the color in their bedroom(sort or an insider's tip.) I was pleased to see the added element of applying her drawing to bent and folded paper. I'm intrigued by the quality it brings to the work. It's the physical manifestation to what she's been creating pictorially for some time; bending moment and reality in and out of view. I find the spacial dimension really appealing, and I see exciting possibilities with this direction of the work.
Outside the museum is a piece by Michael Somoroff called "Illumination". It looks like a miniature iceberg/band shell. The sculpture, which when seen from inside the museum where it is viewed from the rear(I think) portends an ominous, but graceful discovery around its bend. However, walking around the piece was utterly disappointing, and it took on the semblance of a piece of playground equipment lacking the fun. I don't intend to be overly cheeky, but as I'm writing this, I'm thinking of the Lyle Lovett Lyrics:
Now I crept up from behind her/She looked so fine to me/But when I stepped around her man/My eyes could plainly see/She was ugly from the front/She was ugly from the front/...And I said ugly-ugly-ugly-ugly-ugly.....
Of course, let's remember, lest the critic gets to be too big in own heady sense of self, the song reminds him: "But you ugly too."
The effectiveness of the piece is enhanced by the accompanying literature that explains that the form is basically a physical manifestation of a volume of illumination as light enters through the window of a virtually created mosque.
In any case, this is of those instances where the concept of a piece is far more satisfying and interesting than its execution.

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