Flesh, Time and Virtual Sight. Three winter exhibitions


Kate Blacklock's “Through Time” at Candita Clayton gallery provides a cross-section of this artist's work, both in style and medium as well as in chronology. Upon entrance, one is immediately presented with what reads as the newest of this selection. Ominously still and ornately composed photographs are mounted on aluminum, giving these images an uplifting iridescence - lending suspended moments in time a sort of still-movement. A clear reference to Dutch Master painting accentuates this contradictory timelessness, allowing the background to fall quickly to a deep black.


Also on view are a selection of manipulated ceramic vase forms decorated with vibrant imagery. These works, slightly older in Blacklock's canon, compliment a number of larger-scale wall works: mixed media, textural compositions with the vase form repeated, overlayed and overlapped.        

There is a latent reference to the female body here through symbolism: the altered vessel form in Blacklock's three-dimensional ceramic works, the symmetrical or ideal vessel repeated through a majority of her work, and in the aluminum-backed photos, the repeated image of a flower. It is as if Blacklock creates a journey of the beauty of the female form through time – moving from a seemingly frustrated deformation and redecoration of the traditional vessel – perhaps a comment on the stresses of false ideals onto the youthful female body - to a more matured and comfortable perspective in the photo works. The smaller of these photos struck me as the most effective pieces in the show – creating an imaginary still life that approach but avoid utopian vision while embracing a somewhat eerie solitude.


At Yellow Peril Gallery, Vanish offered an altogether different approach towards understanding the human body – not specifically female but rather specifically digital. As curator of the show, I must say it feels contradictory to write about the show from this perspective (that of a columnist). After given the opportunity to write from this position, I decided to offer another perspective from a recent piece published about show that I feel offered incredibly shallow criticism (if one could call it that – it was mainly a cursory description of the show). The one critique present claimed that this show showed potential, but did not carry the “spark” to ignite the imagination. I want agree with this statement, at least in part. Yes it could have been better. But with some light digging, the (re)viewer would find that this work carries more than it seems.

The artist, Maralie, choosing to reveal only her first name publicly, is dealing directly with a new anonymity. The focus of the show, a series of six large digital prints, are read at first as abstract macro photographs of marble. Slowly, hidden photographic images emerge from the surface. Cock-shots. Yes, photographs of a man's penis. It is at this point where the critic must dig deeper than the average viewer: why would she deal with this overused, cliché, and explicit imagery? After asking this question, the critic would learn that these are not photos of either her husband's body, or of pornography found with a Google search. They are photos of someone the artist has a completely anonymous relationship with. It's incredibly intimate, yes, but not just erotic: each print is labeled with dot matrix text, the type frequently used to identify individual photo prints. In this case, these labels are pulling important poetic quotes, descriptions and reminiscence of the artist's and anonymous body's shared passion for Witman.

The meat here, so to speak, is the simultaneous veiling and uncovering of our relationship to the other in a digitally mediated social experience. A series of uncomfortable ink drawings of masks, made with bold calligraphic linework, allude to the act of building an avatar – they're very simple and the construction is visible - yet demonstrate it's ability to translate emotion. A veiled mirror allows us to look at ourselves without seeing ourselves – like a real life profile picture – while referring directly to death ritual and with it marking a separation from the traditional, flesh and blood identity of the self.

 Although Vanish is no longer up for view, it is the first in a two part series at Yellow Peril titled “Throw the Looking Glass: Refracted Modes of Sight.” Currently on view, Michael Childress' Navigation Paintings offer a more traditional art viewing experience, and asks us to engage with an mode of sight directed outward, rather than with the introspective lens of Vanish.

 A series of seven primary nearly-square paintings are the focus and namesake of Navigation Paintings. Although each is a consistent dimension, and the use of vibrant, saturated color is continual, the paintings don't talk to each other as much as they project outwards – almost as if each was a window to a different place. And place is certainly important here – Childress creates a contradictory location: one that oscillates between two and three-dimensional space, creating an experience  described in the curatorial statement:

“Mike Childress' Navigation Paintings deal with a sort of double sight – as 'both diagram and landscape' they are abstract and literal constructions of space and movement...The process of visualization meshes with the experience of observational vision to create a refracted and virtual mode of sight.”

These paintings were born out of another body of work, Childress' Field Drawings. Also on display in this exhibition, these drawings demonstrate the type of movement that sparked Navigation Paintings. The same sort of 'double-sight' comes about as depth and perspective cues mix with clear mark-making and surface drawing to confuse a virtualized three-dimensional space as represented in two dimensions with the actual two-dimensional movements of pen on paper.

While a small number of the seven Navigation Paintings haven't reached their full potential as virtual place-building fields, a majority of them do so with a satisfying harmonic resonance. Pairing the Field Drawings, both framed and on file, was an important decision. These smaller, more accessible works create virtual but navigable Flows, Cycles, and Events that incite the movement of complex systems through a wide vocabulary of detailed mark-making.

Kate Blacklock's (kateblacklock.com) Through Time is on view at Candita Clayton Studio through March 6


Maralie's (maralie.com) Vanish was on view at Yellow Peril Gallery from January 18 until Febrary 10, and Michael Childress' (humaninnature.com) Navigation Paintings is on view through March 17