April 2017: Max Adrian

3:35 pm, May 31, 2017 in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Colette Mihocik

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Max Adrian, The Sensational, Inflatable Furry Divines, installation view, 2017

 

 

 

Max Adrian’s exhibition The Sensational, Inflatable Furry Divines, is made up of three bulbous, towering creatures suspended from the ceiling, constructed from a variety of tactile materials that transform the gallery into a bold, playful atmosphere. The ballooning figures tower over the average person – a scale reminiscent of idolatry. Adrian’s inspiration for his practice is embedded in the history of craft as a vehicle for storytelling and community building, illustrating a conversation about identity and self expression; fine crafts like quilting, sewing, puppetry as tools for communication. His work also discusses how this history of craft runs parallel to the LBGTQ community in how this mode of art provides a means of self expression for a demographic that is evolving out of a struggling oppression. The playhouse guardians hover just above the floor, suspended by chains over fans functioning on a timer – this creates a dynamic and aloof atmosphere, with the bodies deflating and inflating suddenly, popping up and out, emphasizing its own presence in act like breathing. Their material tactility invites the audience to touch the rounded planes of faux leather, faux fur, vinyl, and spandex.

 

 

 

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 Max Adrian, installation detail

 

 

Luther: The Furry Divine of Questionable Head is a symmetrical, inviting entity with five pink conical arms smoothly jutting out from its fuzzy, plush body. Upon closer inspection, one can see the same triangle pattern sewn repeatedly to create the gray hairy body and it’s rounded pink faux leather “head”, recalling the hand and history of craftwork that inspires Adrian. When the body is deflated, the head disappears entirely; only on inflation does it’s pink head emerge from within it, reminiscent of a brain popping out into existence – not being afraid to show every part of itself to the audience.

 

 

 

 

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Max Adrian, Luther: The Furry Divine of Questionable Head, 2017

 

 

Jester: The Furry Divine of Cowardly Courtship floats over seven feet high, and is covered in shaggy brown faux-fur with a white face, adorned by five gold floppy horns with jingle bells – much like the iconic jesters hat. The fur material of the body varies, cascading down in a triangular pattern. On the back of its head is a golden furry star, reflecting the red faux leather star centered on its face. It slightly jingles whenever it inflates and deflates, adding faint sound to the exhibition that recalls a childlike whimsy.

 

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Max Adrian,Jester: The Furry Divine of Cowardly Courtship, 2017

 

 

The third installment in this jovial community is Act II, Scene IV: Snowman, with three spherical body parts vertically stacked like a childhood snowman or a narrative totem figure. It has starkly contrasted colors, differing from the softer palette of the other two puppets; shiny white satin and red pleather arrow patterns disappear into quiet and absorbent orbs of black fur. The name asserts the work’s connection to performance and the narrative structure of theatre by referencing the way plays are organized.

 

 

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Max Adrian,Jester: Act II, Scene IV: Snowman, 2017

 

 

These soft sculptures – with their uniform geometry of pleasing textures and colors – stand reminiscent of a jester, a teddy bear or even a school’s mascot. These figural associations, these puppet-like creatures, are themselves evolved from theatrics, from performance. They seamlessly snug themselves in the intimate gallery setting, existing together in a harmonious community. Despite their tendency towards the bizarre they are animatedly warm and inviting, highlighting the duality of playfulness and depravity, of the desire to conceal one’s identity and to freely express it.

 

April 2017: Galen Gibson-Cornell

3:17 pm, in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Colette Mihocik

 

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Galen Gibson-Cornell, Installation Shot, 2017

 

 

Galen Gibson-Cornell explores cities in Europe in order to decipher the visual literacy posted around places such as Berlin, Budapest, Venice and Novi Sad. Using the urban landscape as his inspiration, he reinterprets the posters and flyers that coat the walls of outdoor public spaces, taking every measure to personally investigate their life from creation to their showcasing, and inevitable destruction as a piece of ephemera exposed to the elements. Upon entering the installation, the viewer is confronted with overwhelmingly large imagery constructed through an act of repetition that at once both mimics and distorts the imagery discovered on the surface of a city. This tedious and methodical practice is Gibson-Cornell’s way of unpacking and reforming the results of his investigations. A closer inspection reveals the rawness of his materials; one can see the fishing line ties sticking out from the conglomerated image like little hair strands, further engrossing the larger-than-life scale of the environment from which the inspiration originated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Galen Gibson-Cornell, Kick Your Friends (1) (side view), installation view, 2017

 

 

 

 

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Galen Gibson-Cornell, Kick Your Friends (1), 2017

 

 

 

Gibson-Cornell uses old European cities as a template to satiate his fascination with history and the role the historian plays in an evolving culture. The duality of old world culture and contemporary society sets the stage for him to peel back the layers, and ultimately the history, of thesis urban environments. The manipulation of the materials aims to investigate the ever evolving relationship of contemporary society within the historically rich European cities. He regards his practice as an interface with the fleeting nature of these environments as a “contemplative preservation”, collecting many materials on site by photography and/or actual removal of the material from the site. The final result of being woven acts as a symbol of solidifying and stabilizing these witnessed moments.

 

 

 

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 Galen Gibson-Cornell, Kick Your Friends (8), 2017

 

 

 

 

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Kick Your Friends (8), detail

 

 

 

The subjects of this series come from posters of pop singer Mark Forster and posters of Italian soccer players. Gibson-Cornell patternizes and expands upon the display of his subjects, distorting their identities within a composition of repeating pixels. In Kick Your Friends (1) and Kick Your Friends (8), the result is a portrait compiled in a new perspective, one that renders the context of the player’s individuality into anonymity. This is reflective of the moments in time and space where the posters originally existed, and how it’s quickly evolving environment tends towards disappearance as it is swallowed up by an instantaneous, contemporary society. The largest piece, Mark Forster, hangs like a flag the ceiling down onto the floor. The distorted image of the pop singer is recreated by 48 individual posters, grids made up from even smaller photographic squares in a complimentary composition of blue and orange. The features of the face – eyes, glasses, mouth – are repeated and overlapped within the grid in a way that suggests an instant moment of a shutter in movement. Gibson-Cornell uses his language to manipulate the materials in order to create work like a scientist collecting and presenting data of a very specific moment in modern history.

 

 

 

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 Galen Gibson-Cornell,  Mark Forster, 2017

 

 

 

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Mark Forster (detail)

 

 

 

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Mark Forster (detail)

 

 

 

March 2017: Alicia Little

2:24 pm, May 25, 2017 in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Colette Mihocik

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Alicia Little, Installation Shot, 2017

 

 

 

Alicia Little’s exhibition Stand ups and low riders/ fragments and the end takes you to a playground of absurdity. The work harmonizes a space between painting and sculpture, employing the formalities of color and form to create abstract shapes that avoid explicit reference, and simultaneously are enticing in the same formal sense. Her sculptures are made from plaster and paint materials, each piece specific and unique, as well as playful and inviting. In some moments the exhibition hints at an essence of something bodily with it’s elongated and phallangic forms, at others the shapes are more obscure. One of the delights of Little’s work is that everything begs for comparison to objects out in the world. For example, her piece Slope, Tip is just as readily referred to as “a piece of toast with jelly” or “a picture frame” or “a pink quadrilateral propped by an orange tube.” The audience is surrounded in the exhibition by these sculptures, with each encounter calling upon the little nuances of their material and composition.

 

 

 

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Alicia Little, Fragment (Coil Snake),  plaster and paint, 2017

 

 

 

Like a biologist, Little categorizes each sculpture by how it functions or exists in space. A piece is either a “stand up,” “low rider” or a “fragment.” The fragments accurately resemble what their name suggests—singular and momentary, the shapes are contextualized only by the gallery floor or wall they occupy. These fragments force the viewer to focus on the materiality of each piece. They appear to have been pulled from an abstract two-dimensional world and into our own- a pale blue spiral, an unpolished shiny loaf, a yellow wire grid, and a couple purpley polygons. They are titled with their class and a brief visual description- Fragment (Gold), Fragment (purple), Fragment (Coil snake).

 

 

 

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 Alicia Little, Still Life with Plastic Orange, 2017

 

 

 

The low riders, Still Life with Plastic Orange, Elongated Lump, Limb (with blue powder)Slope, Tip and What is Mine and What is Yours are named as such because each rises to about knee height. The pieces are coated in thick, glossy paint and coupled with another material element, like powdered pigment, stuffed fabric, or a plastic vase and orange. The low riders introduce the context of comparison, using said varying materials to create a dialogue about their postures. For example, What is Mine and What is Yours could readily be described as a “yellow bean snake on a red slide”. A long and malleable yellow form rests down the spine of a sturdy triangular arch – creating a discourse about posture and reliance for support. The conversation about stance and lack of strength continues with Little’s “stand-up” pieces. While not quite chest height, Stand Up (with yellow reflection), and Stand Up (with silicone) loom above the rest of the sculptures. The effects of gravity act on these more so than the others. Stand Up (with yellow reflection) leans against the wall precariously, as if it was propped there momentarily and then forgotten—however, the yellow reflection on the wall reveals the intention of the piece. In Stand Up (with silicone) a pale sheet of silicone hangs completely limp on a metal frame. The silicone starts to move towards something more human, resembling the feel of a skin. To impose a bodily gesture, the posture of both pieces could be described as a slouch.

 

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 Alicia Little, Stand Up (with Yellow Reflection), 2017

 

 

 Each piece is texturally rich and Little’s hand is evident as her biggest tool. Little creates shapes like enlarged chunks of Play-Doh, as if they’ve been pinched, rolled and molded by a pair of oversized hands. Little’s sculptures, despite their abstraction and whimsy are referential of something physically relatable. Through their light-hearted and playful expression of shape and color, they describe familiar and common aspects of, as Little states “being a body in the world.”

 

 

 

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 Alicia Little, Stand Up, steel, enamel and silicone, 2017

 

 

March 2017: Woomin Kim

2:52 pm, May 15, 2017 in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Haley Kedziora

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 Woomin Kim, Unknown Species Installation View

 

 

 

Woomin Kim combines woven sculptures and documentary photographs in an exhibition that investigates the relationship between modern society and the natural environment. Kim’s work oscillates between the relative familiarity of humanity and the strangeness of nature. A room is filled with soft, furry objects that very nearly fulfill the conventions of a domestic space- a patchwork of rugs lay on the floor, while framed photos, coats and sculptures reminiscent of hunting trophies are mounted on the wall and shapes that may or may not be body parts lie quietly on the floor. The atmosphere is comforting in its softness; there are no hard edges, no towering forms. The materials and scale of Kim’s work hides connotations of violence, subtly blanketed by the act of its displacement, or removal, from nature. Upon further inspection the shapes on the floor are dismembered body parts: a lost set of antlers, a severed tail, and another object indeterminate but equally maimed. These pieces are constructed from the shorn hair of fur coats, which hang bald on the wall in contrast to the fuzzy planes spread out on the floor. Her photographs are self-portraits—nude, except for a mask made from the artist’s own hair. The sight of this primitive figure contrasts the interior environment of a modern-day abode, bringing to light dichotomies between animal and human, habitat and home, and the brutality that occurs from man’s self-imposed disassociation from the rest of the natural world.

 

 

 

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 Woomin Kim,”nknown Species, shaved fur coats, animal fur (fox, rabbit, racoon, mink, lamb, squirrel, dog, unknown), dimensions variable, 2017.

 

 

 

In Unknown Species, Kim collected used animal fur coats, shaved them, and harvested the fur. Stripping the coats of their intrinsic value yields an eerie, anthropic patchwork of skin, the resolution of a past violent encounter. The coats hang in a close row resembling a display of trophy animals, or even an executional lineup. The color palettes of the coats consist of natural tones that are intermittently contrasted with furs dyed hot pink or bright turquoise, further delving into the assimilation of nature into commodity with it’s unnatural hue interrupting the softness and familiarity of real animal fur.

 

 

 

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Woomin Kim, ”Unknown Species”, “Atrophy #2″, beaver fur, 81x50x32 cm, 2016), 2017

 

 

 

The shaved fur was gathered and transformed into multiple sculptural components, some woven into larger textiles and the rest spun into thread and crocheted into forms to resemble various animal body parts. Displayed intermittently throughout the exhibition the soft, inanimate sculptures convey an unnerving reminder of taxidermy. The woven textiles lay composed like a patchwork puzzle in front of their former resting place, the bare coats. The furry nature of the material contrasts with the blunt harshness by which it was removed, resulting in a glimpse into the violence to nature performed by man.

 

 

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Woomin Kim, ”Habitat”, inkjet print, 91x56cm, 2017

 

 

 

In her photographic series Habitat Kim documents herself in her private, domestic environment, adorning only an entirely-encompassing head mask created from the artist’s own hair. The portraits show a hybrid animal-human creature in a calm contemporary environment – sitting at a cluttered work desk, lounging on a couch. Of the three portraits, the most captivating is the shot of the artist looking at her own reflect in the mirror; the reflection stares back at Kim, back out into the audience. The world looks upon this as a moment of self-revelation—she looks at herself as human and animal simultaneously, both natural and disguised. The thematic element of hair becomes the connective component in describing a duality of man and beast in Kim’s installation, ultimately revealing the minimal yet prominent difference between the two worlds.

 

 

 

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Woomin Kim, ”Habitat”, artist’s hair, fabric, 30x28x38cm, 2017

 

July 2016: Rachel Yurkovich

3:55 pm, August 10, 2016 in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Ken Aschliman

Rachel Yurkovich, Installation view

 

Rachel Yurkovich constructs an exhibition that is reminiscent of a laboratory filled with peculiar experiments. Although visually the work has a clean, scientific aesthetic, the acrid smell of vinegar and dirt immediately confronts the viewer, while the soft, tense sounds pierce the gallery with a subtle sense of horror. Yurkovich derives her artwork from biological experiments that satiate our curiosity by highlighting truly bizarre animal behavior. A dying/brown apple tree and preying mantis terrarium are the centerpiece of the show and are surrounded by numerous video monitors and preserved bug specimens in the gallery. The living specimens are part of her ongoing experimentation during their stay in the gallery.

 

In Self-Indulgence, Yurkovich tests the effects of watering an apple tree with apple juice. The spindly apple tree appears feeble and sad with its brown, withered leaves and frail trunk. At the beginning of the exhibition the tree had three remaining green leaves but they quickly browned, serving as a harsh juxtaposition to the lush trees that line the street just outside the gallery window. The tree is fed four bottles of Great Value apple juice on a weekly basis, and as the bottles are emptied into the tree’s base, they are placed back into an array on the floor to demonstrate the experiment’s progress. Mixed odors of the apple juice, the soil, and what can be perceived as the decay of the tree create strong acidic smell that is instantly off-putting. It seems as if the tree is drowning within its own products as the soil begins to oversaturate, and we are witness to its tragic and fetid decay. Self-Indulgence highlights the limits of consumption. Excess in this case inevitably leads to decay. As the tree is undergoing an unnatural process in the artificial gallery space, we cannot help feeling empathy for it.

 

Rachel Yurkovich, still from Egg Eating Chicken

 

In the video Egg Eating Chicken features a test subject who is an active agent in its gluttony. A hen furiously pecks at her own egg until she cracks open the shell and carries it further back into her nest to eat the oozing white and yolk. The experiment is filmed like a dark horror, the gruesomely violent and frantic pecking of the chicken on its own egg seems like a crazed infanticide. Yurkovich explores this strange relationship with the consumption of its own bodily product, as hens do occasionally consume their own unfertilized eggs. The chicken is not deliberately engaging in cannibalism; the act is more of a selfish indulgence. The yolk of the egg is meant as a nutrient for the embryonic chick, and this hen consuming her own byproduct is odd, like a woman drinking her own breast milk. The taste of the yolk has become addictive to the hen, which will continue to voraciously eat her own eggs. On farms this behavior condemns hens to be slaughtered because they no longer produce eggs. The chicken’s vicious and relentless pecking represents an alarming loss of self-control, and the furious delight of consumption that blinds of impending consequences.

 

In Yurkovich’s mantis works she tests the insects cannibalistic behavior which is not only self-willed but an intrinsic characteristic of their species. Yurkovich began this series of experiments by playing matchmaker for two mantises in order to breed further generations.. With incredible clarity and detail, much to our horror, she captures the mating dance of the mantises and the eventual consumption of the male mantis by the hungry and unfeeling female. The video is shot with a degree of intimacy, as if the close shots upon the the face of the feasting mantis were actually trained upon the face of a human instead. The insects spare us no gore or horror. This feeling is amplified by the incredibly anthropomorphic quality of the mantises with their long torsos and upright posture. To the female mantis, this act ensures that she has the proper food supply to successfully produce her eggs. If there is an abundant food supply in their environment, a majority of the time mating the females will not consume their male partners. Female mantises are not intrinsically cannibalistic, but rather opportunistically cannibalistic. In the case of Yurkovich’s mantises, the indulgent nuptial gift is determined by the environment and appetite of the female.

 

Rachel Yurkovich, The Second Generation detail

 

The First Generation and The Second Generation tell a family drama ripe with accidental death, cannibalism, and incest. Yurkovich preserves the dead mantises from previous experiments, complete with pins and scientific labelling for their identification. Through close inspection of the labels, the tragic fate of these insects is laid out for us. The world of the mantis is brimming with danger. Of ten males, only one was consumed by a female mantis; the others have died naturally, only to be partially consumed by crickets, their intended food. However, the mantises are not preoccupied with traditional family values. Their primary concern is to eat and reproduce, with the ultimate goal beings the continuation of its species.

 

Rachel Yurkovich, still from Boiling Frog Syndrome

 

Yurkovich puts animal instinct to the test again in the video Boiling Frog Syndrome. Her experiment explores the veracity of the adage, “If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will jump out right away, but if you slowly heat the water in the pot by small degrees it will not notice and will be boiled to death.” Historically, several experiments like Yurkovich’s have tested this saying with negative results (the earliest being in 1869 by German physiologist Friedrich Goltz). Yurkovich stages her experiment in a clean environment with cool light. She places a white tree frog in a metal sauce pan on a lab stovetop and raises the temperature in controlled increments of five degrees Celsius every ten minutes. The video teems with suspense. The temperature climbs slowly, creeping closer and closer to 100 degrees, yet the frog does not yet attempt to escape. Yurkovich captures the frog in intimate close-ups. We expect the frog to wince in pain or to see fear flicker in its eyes, but for the most part it is unflinching. Even once the frog decides that the water is too hot, it only leaps up onto the metal lip of the saucepan. After three hours and fifty minutes, the frog ends the experiment by jumping from the lip, but only once the water passes the boiling point. Though the frog is not actively consuming anything, the experiment is staged to test the frogs will to survive. In an eat or be eaten world, if the frog were to be boiled alive in the pot it would be complicit in it’s own consumption.

 

Yurkovich’s experiments highlight natural behaviors that we initially perceive as bizarre and destructive like self-cannibalism and sexual cannibalism. Yet, our perception is tinged by our human experiences. Her experiments draw out feelings of revulsion, but also pity. We tend to project our values and concerns upon animal behaviors as if they were our own. The excessive consumption we witness in Yurkovich’s experiments bring to mind human overconsumption and self-destructive behaviors  like eating disorders, drug addiction, alcoholism. At times it is easier to feel empathy for a frog or an insect, a creature so different from ourselves, than to confront issues that plague our own species.

 

By Harlee Mollenkopf

July 2016: Kate Ball

3:52 pm, in Blog, Photography, Reviews by Ken Aschliman

Kate Ball, Installation view

 

In the exhibition Lawn Game, Kate Ball creates works that emerge from the setting of the middle American backyard, and are mired in a grotesque kitsch aesthetic. Her exhibition showcases bizarre collages and stop-motion videos that explore the relationship between humans and animals. Ball’s process begins with creating collagraph prints that involve gluing collage materials and found objects onto the printing plate. Next she cuts up her prints and combines them with other found objects in her mixed media pieces and stop-motion videos. The works are neither polished nor self-contained, rather Ball’s collages sprawl out freely on the walls and found sculptural elements adorn the  works. The stop motion videos echo with American folk tunes and intermittent grunts and shrieks. Ball’s crude style manifests itself in the quickly cut collage elements that are roughly glued, sewn, or tied to one another, culminating in creatures that are neither human nor animal. The disturbing world created in Lawn Game critiques the rocky relationship between human and animal cohabitors in the constructed habits of suburbia.

 

Ball pieces together her stop-motion videos, A Little Stroll and Lawn Game, in a rough style that brings to mind the way in which Victor Frankenstein vivified his monster. A Little Stroll must be glimpsed through a massive wooden bird box that protrudes from the gallery wall. The LED screen in an animal’s habitat is conflicting. However, the stop-motion video raises even further dissonance between the natural world and synthetic human sphere. A picturesque mountain backdrop, carpet with faux fur, and a soundtrack  of “Home on the Range” set the stage for the video. Strange fleshy figures that are roughly pieced and stitched together creep in and out of the frame. Between shots of the faux fur, the figures wink, laugh, grimace, and cry tears of sprinkles while slithering about like snakes on their unusually long necks. Between the intermittent appearance of the monster-like figures, animal crackers fight each other in a much more animalistic way than their candy coated appearance suggests. One overtakes the other, stringing jelly guts across the frame. Then the faux fur on the ground creeps out of the frame. The facial features of the figures change from frame to frame and to match their expressions, and none match the the angle of the face. Disconnect between the features and the figures is unnerving and makes their reactions seem disingenuous. Also, The manmade environment in A Little Stroll highlights the constructed relationship that we have with nature.

 

Kate Ball, still from Lawn Game

 

Lawn Game, which shares its name with the title of the exhibition, runs rampant with feverish internal conflict. The stop-motion video features a monstrous collage of a man who is mowing his lush manicured lawn, completely pantless with a laughably large penis swinging about freely. The character is a suburban status symbol with his manhood on full display. Pausing his lawn mowing to pick up a baseball bat, something completely unexpected happens, he gives birth to a deer. His initial horror at the unexpected and vulgar event soon turns to joy, he is the proud father of this creature. Then, he gives birth to another, and another, until the rate is out of control. Soon deer are all over his lawn mating, defecating, fighting, and tearing up his lawn. His love for his progeny is met with a psychotic break. How dare they destroy his gorgeous lawn. In a fit of rage he kills them all with a baseball bat. Realizing the gravity of his action, he faints, only to have more deer spawn from his mouth. The strange hallucination appears as a Freudian battle within the suburban male psyche. The video highlights the suburban man’s internal struggle between controlling and respecting nature as well as the base desire for dominance and control.

 

Kate Ball, Ingredients detail

 

The installation Ingredients strips down the exhibition to its base elements. The installation displays rows of itemized prints and found objects in plastic bags labeled with masking tape and Sharpie, to be used in Ball’s collage and stop-motion works. Each bag is nailed directly to the wall. Some of the bags are labeled “flesh,” “SUV’s,” “taxidermy heads,” and “cats,” though the contents are more or less true to their label. Others contain humorous and unusual combinations like “Naked Men & Home Appliances” and “Bats & the Queen.” The contents capture a slice of suburban life. Ball includes stereotypical objects, and also visceral, disgusting objects that polite culture tends to smooth over and ignore.

 

Deer Etchings series from left to right: Icon, Manicure, Exhibit, Whhhite, Bambi

 

Ball’s Deer Etchings series repeats the same etching of a deer that is stylistically like a saint’s icon. In each piece she uses various collage elements and sculptural treatments to alter the etching. Because of their frontal presentation and direct eye contact with the viewer, the deer take on a human quality and  showcase different personalities. In the first print, Icon, the deer is adorned with a golden background, scrupulous human eyes, and a rosary that is hung below the frame. Because the golden background and rosary depict the deer as if it were a saint, this piece symbolizes our relationship with nature as inherently spiritual and therapeutic. In Manicure this deer has rectangles of turf covering its eyes and a tangle of outdoor string lights hung below it. The string lights below the portrait easily draw comparison to Christian Boltanski’s photo installations, and the piece highlights our need to conquer nature and subject it to our rules of order. In the middle print, Exhibit, the deer is hung in a gold frame with glassy ceramic eyes, ivy and straw. The portrait champions a pastoral aesthetic, used to romanticize nature in myth, literature, and traditional art. In Whhhite the deer is adorned with a cut-outs of the Confederate flag, the lid of aPBR can, paper antlers, and steel truck nuts that dangle below. This piece pokes fun at the “country boy” subculture that is often stereotypically associated with hunting, drinking, and a penchant for the Confederate flag. Finally, in Bambi the deer’s eyes and mouth are replaced with glossy cut outs of Bambi and, in a nod to Mike Kelly’s found object sculptures, Ball hangs a headless stuffed animal below the print. This spotlights the exceedingly cute and pure pop-culture representation of animals. The thematic variety in the Deer Etchings exemplifies the differing degrees in which we esteem nature.  

 

Kate Ball, Owl & Virginia

 

Ball’s collagraph collages Blue Bits and Owl & Virginia probe further into horrifying hybrids between animals, humans, and refuse. In Blue Bits, she creates birds connected with thin, frayed copper wiring. The birds appear as an army of robots in serious disrepair. Upon close inspection, the birds are made up of collagraphs of paper towels and cheese cloth, and their eyes are made of embroidered hoops. Owl & Virginia is similarly peculiar. The collagraph of the owl (made of prints similar to those used in Blue Bits) holds strings in its french-tip talons that pull on the on the awkward leggy deer below as if it were a puppet. Bodies of the animals roughly take on characteristics of the human form, but the details are ill-fitting and strange. The owl has fake plastic toenails and black lace doilies for eyes. The deer has a large print of a toothy human mouth that dominates its face, leather ties that hold its joints together, and human hair that is attached to its tail. The animals seem almost alive, but their existence falls into an uncanny valley, too human to be read as animal and too animal to be read as human.

 

Taken together, Ball’s exhibition reflects our estrangement from nature. The handmade animal hybrids, like Frankenstein’s monster, are so alienated from their original source that they incite disgust. Ball’s process mirrors the way in which we create manicured parks in order to have a quasi-natural experience, although our streets, homes, and lawns push the natural further and further away. Nature is no longer the norm; it is strange and uncomfortable. Ball’s work is a haunting reminder of our utter lack of environmental stewardship in the age of consumerism and our hypocritical attempts at reconnecting with a natural world that we are complicit in destroying. 

 

By Harlee Mollenkopf

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