Comin' Down the Mountain at the Donkey Gallery
By Steven Robert Allen
Given the current rate of urban sprawl, it's reasonable to assume that 50 years from now Albuquerque and Santa Fe will merge into a single urban unit. We might as well get a jump on our inevitable union by letting bygones be bygones. There's no need to keep fighting. We're sisters, after all. Sure, Santa Fe is a prissy cosmopolitan educated at Yale who married the ambassador to Japan, while we here in Albuquerque are a cheap bimbo with a weakness for Kahlua who dropped out of school in the 11th grade to pursue a dubious career as an exotic dancer—but that doesn't mean we don't have a lot of common interests.
We're family—it's time we started acting like one.
Albuquerque's relatively new Donkey Gallery (1415 Fourth Street SW) helps us take another cautious baby step toward domestic harmony with its current exhibit, Comin' Down the Mountain, consisting of work by five contemporary Santa Fe artists. It's a varied and fascinating show that's nicely displayed in the gallery's plain square exhibit room.
David Marshall's sharpie on plexiglass constructions are the most graphically experimental of the bunch. Hung on window grates along the east wall, Marshall's multicolored studies are composed primarily of animal and human forms, some erotic, some conventional, some downright bizarre.
His focus seems to be on exploring perception and shape. "Strategery, The Story of Dangerman, Cyclist" incorporates two bird images with internal organs exposed. In the first image, lines and labels indicate the bird's trachea, lung and air sacks—the biological infrastructure necessary to produce sound. The second image includes external features missing from the first—an eye, for example—but the labels are gone.
Again and again, throughout the series, Marshall draws multiple layered images of the same subject in various stages of graphic development—a brontosaurus, a woman in a bikini, a hairless cat. In some ways, the aim of these bewildering pieces seems to be to explore the nature of image-making itself. Marshall's work looks pleasingly unfinished, as if his interest ends with the process of drawing rather than with the finished drawing itself. His attention always remains on the ideas themselves rather than the execution of those ideas.
Rotating to the right, we come to a completely divergent set of work—Will Lichty's photographs of U.S. flags displayed on the Hawaiian Islands. Lichty's series zeroes in on an untidy mix of Hawaiian and U.S. cultures. Superficially, they're plain Jane urban scenes, but there's something slightly disturbing and disjointed about the way these flags are displayed in an environment so far—both physically and culturally—from the mainland.
Another 90 degree turn to the right brings us to Luke Dorman's untitled ink and gesso on linen pieces. These drawings have a friendly comic strip feel to them that's contradicted by their subject matter—houses and other buildings with flames bursting from every window. Some of these buildings look like ordinary suburban homes. Others are less probable structures, factories and silos with unstable awnings and oddly placed chutes. Dorman places them in a cellular square matrix, each structure completely isolated from every other structure, giving these uninhabited, enigmatic pieces a lonely vibe.
On the final wall, Amy Barkow has crumpled up large-scale photographs of old people, genders barely recognizable beneath the veil of creases. The process of crumpling has left white flecks on the images as if to emphasize the process of biological decomposition. You'd have a tough time recognizing these people on the street.
Beside Barkow's crumplings are Patrick Kikut's various renderings of the gallery's donkey icon. These are the only images that are out of place here, seeming more appropriate for flyers advertising the show than the show itself.
All in all, though, this is a vehemently anti-commercial show of highly inventive experimental art. Comin' Down the Mountain runs for another week or so. Stop by and check out what a handful of our more creative brethren have concocted on the other side of La Bajada Hill.
Comin' Down the Mountain, an exhibit featuring work by Amy Barkow, Pat Kikut, Will Lichty, Luke Dorman and David Marshall, runs through Dec. 31 at the Donkey Gallery (1415 Fourth Street SW). www.donkeygallery.org, 242-7504.
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