Three from Friday

My time for visiting local shows (not to mention out of the city) has been limited recently, so I relished having some extra time this Friday to investigate several venues, some opening that evening. To keep this more succinct, as I tend to ramble and occasionally rhapsodize, I will allot a paragraph to one artist at each place. Let's begin, shall we?

1. Mary Judge, in Elemental/Ornamental, Moore College, 20th and Parkway.
I've actually written about Mary Judge here before, but had not been aware previous to this exhibit that she was a Moore graduate, circa '75. Regardless, I remain in my thinking that her work edges on timelessness and universality (despite the reticence to such assignations in academic circles). This is a tall order, of course, and was admittedly challenged by my own immediate thoughts. Various associations began spinning along with the work: cookies; lace doilies; compasses, crackers and clocks. Thus I was almost as quickly mildly ashamed by my first associations being largely domestic and feminized: I try to avoid this when knowingly approaching a female artist's work, as a male! But these images soon morphed and enriched under the great acuity of Judge's hand, and upon remembering her delicately rendered visual textures, and the quiet, ticking movements of her prints. The insistent circles roll like time, wall to wall, changing from piece to piece, much like the silent progress of a life; a life with a core interest, but with wandering eyes which glean from the available world like-entities, images and concepts. The circling is insistent, but the wide-ranging alacrity of Judge's associations are admirable, and keep it sane. Not approaching OCD insanity such as On Kawara's calendar paintings, but lovingly compiled, like a lifetime's collection of seashells; one genre with myriad possibilities, gathered with care in a lifelong walk behind the tide.

2. David Dunn, eReader, at Copy Gallery, 319 North 11th, 3rd floor.
Vox Populi, just next door, was boring, and I have to admit, I don't always expect a lot from Copy Gallery. David Dunn, however, caught me off guard, and got a hook in me with eReader. A thumping, oddly mesmerizing soundtrack pulsated along with an accompanying video track on back-to-back TV tubes, and the counterpoint offbeats of scanning lights, shadows of human forms, and suggestions of hidden or just-departed persons. Various mysterious and threatening elements created a sense of menace, and appealed to my love of the murder-mystery genre. Though, this was more Brave New World or Blade Runner than Agatha Christie. I kept having a sense of being watched, and actually found myself looking over my shoulder, not sure I hadn't seen a slip of a shoe or an eye in the blinds. A vaguely science-experiment-type installation in the corner facing the doorway was spotlit, and upon inspection looked to be ransom notes pulped up and reconstituted, and submerged into a formaldehyde tank, suggesting a further layer of threat and menace. Kudos, David Dunn; you made me stay for more than five minutes, and there's something to be said for that.

3. Robert Scobey and Yevgeniya S. Baras, at Grizzly Grizzly, 319 North 11th Street, 2nd floor.
A relative newbie among all the other upstarts in 319 North 11th Street, Grizzly Grizzly has until the 28th of February a video and installation by Scobey, and several paintings on canvas by Yevgeniya S. Baras; Baras being a New York transplant from the Russian community of Philadelphia (her comment). I scanned Scobey's video on my way out, and liked what I saw in a few seconds, but must admit I was (having the painter's bias) captivated by Baras's paintings right away. Her edges seemed almost high-school fare, with their exposed staples and unconsidered qualities, but the faces of the paintings demanded the most attention, and largely silenced the edges. They were all either shallow and dark, or shallow and bright; not forgetting their birth from the prosody of layers. The faceted and lozenged play of sheen variations in many of them were arresting; especially the darkest ones, eliciting thoughts of a smoky quartz twisted in the hand, or the mussed-up stepchildren of Constructivism. And I don't use that term lightly, since Baras is after all Russian: there is indeed a stalwart, ornery sense of betterment, even thought it has a more internalized logic, as opposed to the movement's original agit-prop aesthetic. It's as if the movement has been wrested by a self-aware female painter...which it has. Constructivism as a mode now hangs on with a fragile and cold grace, but it once was hot, powerful and poignant. Baras has revived some of that, funkily.

Dennis Matthews  – (Sunday, 14 February, 2010)  

Thanks alot for the smart review of Yevgeniya's show and for coming by, I really appreciate your writing and indepth consideration of the work. I hope to have you come by again next month. Thanks again!

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