Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.
25 June 2006
Fragments and Details, (part 2)
With their Bemis Underground show, Fragments and Details, Matt Walker and Matt Orand have solved the major failing that haunted their respective BFA Thesis showings last year—the interaction of art with the space around it and how the lack of consideration for that relationship can cripple an otherwise compelling work. Walker’s installations suffered from a lack of breathing room crowded into the available space in the UNO Gallery and while Orand’s Target Market had a solid concept and the decision to drag it out of UNO and exhibit it at Crossroads was fitting, but the result was dwarfed by the mall and looked less than impressive as a result.
The current show was built directly into the Underground and their consideration of the gallery space as an organic extension of the works not only shows, but ultimately makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bemis Underground’s layout and construction perfectly compliment the air of abandonment and age the artists were working to create.
From the minute you enter the gallery door you are drawn into a relationship with the show and its pieces. As you descend the stairs you are surrounded by the jarring, mournful wail of a pipe organ’s lone chord while a stark white floodlight illuminates the pale branches of a tree suspended from the ceiling over the rusting skeleton of a wrought-iron crib and its love-eaten stuffed bear occupant.
The crib, and many of the pieces further in replicate the accidental art found in roadside dumpsites and like the myriad of questions and imagined explanations we ponder stumbling over an old pair of dentures on a deserted railroad track, the carefully arranged objects in Fragments & Details hint at the personal histories of their former owners and probe the viewer to consider how their own personal effects become imbued with their own stories.
Walker and Orand have constructed an environment where abandonment, decay and the gleam of nostalgia wander like ghosts in the shadows, created by exposed incandescent bulbs and a swirling collection of discarded spoons; the whispering of fan-blown leaves of old textbooks; the howl of the organ; the soft, musty smells of fresh-dug earth and rotting leaves. It’s this permeating mood, this created atmosphere that lifts the show as a whole above the successes or failures of its individual pieces; muting the heavy-handed contrivance of some arrangements like an enormous piles of clothes heaped on an old TV in front of which is the fishbowl and pennies that earlier featured in one of Walker’s thesis works and a junked car with a women’s nightgown strung up on its frame; strengthening the sense of quiet discovery in others like the window with a heavy muslin curtain that must be peered through to see the worn carousel horse hidden within.
Some of the stronger pieces include a worn mid-century parlor chair in front of a television with a silhouette scene of cowboys and Indians inside and a tree sitting inside an old deep freezer in an alcove made of candle-lit stained glass windows, which recall’s Yoko Ono’s trees growing from wooden caskets.
The most powerful piece is a carefully constructed broken-down porch with a ruined wicker loveseat and a battered, rusted screen door onto and through which is projected a photograph of a man at a front door. The piece is evocative, emotional, heavy with a life story and hauntingly beautiful.
Fragments & Details is one of the better shows to be housed at the Bemis Underground in its short history and is well worth making a point to check out. Should any of the donated abandoned items that make up the show’s raw materials speak to you, you could even bid on them at the auction scheduled as the closing event.