Alice Thorson, 'In
the Moment', Kansas City Star, November 25, 2010
"In the Moment," an exhibit of Kansas City Art Institute alums at the Carter
Art Center, does not live up to the promise of its high-octane talent roster.
The show, organized by independent curator Heather Lustfeldt, includes a few standouts. Much of the work, however, lacks the oomph of earlier efforts by these artists, while other pieces function as staid placeholders for larger and livelier conceptual and performance endeavors.
But the biggest problem is the gallery space, an architectural mishmash encompassing concrete, cement block and brick two-tone walls, a slatted wood ceiling, intrusive lighting and odd-shaped spaces. Lustfeldt included a tongue-in-cheek hint of the problem with her subtitle for the show, "Outside a White Cube." James Woodfill didn't get mad, he got even, taking as his target an unspeakable sapphire-blue tiled fireplace that takes up an entire gallery wall. Woodfill used plywood to obscure the front of this anomalous gallery fixture and placed cold fluorescent lights at its top and base.
It's hard to imagine a work by Archie Scott Gobber mounted on a cheesy fabric panel like those employed in civic and hospital displays, but that's what he got for his new gouache on paper, "Be a Good Loser." Combining text with the image of a tree-shaded house, the work's allusion to the home foreclosure crisis continues the artist's unique brand of satirical social commentary. To see more in a better setting, visit his one-person show at the Dolphin gallery.
Eric Sall's brash, large painting, descriptively titled "Diamond Puff," is difficult to assess in this cacophonous environment, where it suffers the further indignity of lights activated by motion detectors as the viewer nears the piece.
Happily, "In the Moment" includes a big helping of video works, which are not as demanding of their surroundings as objects.
Audra Brandt turns in a stellar effort with her three-minute video "The Girl in the Glass Bottle." Evoking German expressionist and sci-fi films, the piece tells the story of a scientist who receives an award for fertilizing a human egg inside a bottle. At one point, he throws the bottle into the ocean and suffers pangs of guilt; meanwhile, the embryo develops amid schools of fish and frolicking polar bears and eventually matures into a full-fledged girl.
Collaged from stock footage collected from the Internet, her own cache of footage and new video shot in her apartment, this fantasy morality tale broaches issues of environment, bio-ethics and the fecklessness of human endeavors.
Now based in Amsterdam but ever on the move, Eric von Robertson shows a video documenting the annual snow sculpture festival in Sapporo, Japan. The video is part of his ongoing international CARL (Center for Art and Leisure) project, which includes a blog that is essential to making sense of CARL's various pieces, including the Sapporo footage.
Cody Critcheloe's "Gossip: 'Men in Love,' " a music video created for the band Gossip, portrays band members and friends on an orgiastic bus ride. While serving up his usual brand of raucous fun, the work suffers from the lack of Critcheloe's own snarly-sweet presence, integral to his recent art films such as "Boy." Susan White's "On Breathing" is a minimalist video self-portrait incorporating shadow images of the artist projected onto a satiny curtain. Set to the plaintive strains of Meredith Monk's "Liquid Air," it's a contemplative piece that reaches across the centuries to Caspar David Friedrich's solitary figures.
They gaze out at the landscape, whereas White's images, which capture the artist standing in front of video projections at the Palais de Tokyo, the Museum of Modern Art and one of her own works at the Bemis Center in Omaha, speak to the transfixing power of art.
The theme of self-portraiture continues in Robert Heishman's photograph "Myself as Chase Gioberti: My Falcon Crest," part of a larger project revolving around the 1980s prime-time soap opera, which, Heishman notes, began airing the day he was born.
Two photographic self-portraits by Jaimie Warren also take their cues from popular television programs. In one, the artist poses as Lady Gaga in a Muppet garment by designer Jean Charles de Castlebajac. In the other she appears as a garbage-covered Marjory the Trash Heap from the popular 1980s children's program "Fraggle Rock." Two visions are not necessarily better than one in Ari Fish and Jesse Small's collaborative multimedia installation, "125st Birthday Suit," featuring an armature constructed by Small encased in a white fabric covering created by Fish. The dangling shield-like form serves as a screen for a shadowy projection of its hidden interior.
The star of this show is Ke-Sook Lee's "Green Hammock," a bowed horizontal fabric "net" that evokes a suspended dead body. Created from a recycled female Army nurse's uniform, the piece pushes beyond the tranquil domestic vocabulary of quilts, doilies and aprons that Lee is known for and into a world of war and wounds.
It is a subject she knows all too well.
"When I was 9, the Korean War broke out," she related in a recent e-mail. "I heard gunfire every night and saw many deaths in the street and saw the despair of their family members." She created the hammock, she said, in tribute to the nurses who help treat wounded soldiers, much as a mother cares for a wounded son or daughter.
"When I see the 'Green Hammock,' I see a ghost soldier lying there," Lee said. "If anyone was in the war, experienced it, or could imagine the war the way it is ... I do not think they would consider creating another war to solve their problems." She has embellished the hammock with dangling threads and delicate passages of stitchery that read as magical sutures.
"Green Hammock" is a breakthrough piece for Lee, and it will look even more dramatic when the opportunity arises to display it against white walls, instead of the dull, gray fabric-covered backdrop at Carter Art Center.