In Through the Out Door
The Annual Graduate Art Exhibit at the Jonson Gallery
By Steven Robert Allen
Here's a tip for you: It's generally more convenient to enter the Jonson Gallery through the back door than the front. See, the parking lot is in the back, and although the back doorway looks like some sort of decrepit servants' entrance, if you ring the bell, someone will invariably let you in.
Yet entering any gallery through the back can be a mistake. The Jonson's exhibit area is set up in a meandering horseshoe pattern. If you enter through the front, you descend a flight of stairs to the main gallery space. In this case, work by Trevor Lucero is arranged provocatively along the stairwell, and this art serves as an ideal introduction to the exhibit as a whole. Too bad I saw Lucero's work last—and almost missed it entirely.
Lucero's contribution is collectively called “The Audience.” It consists of a series of hastily composed images painted or drawn on pages torn from books or magazines. Each image is roughly framed with aluminum foil and staples. Individually, the pieces are quite crude. Together, however, they're arranged in a way that transcends the sum of these parts.
Consisting mainly of coarse faces, with a few dogs and birds thrown in for variety, “The Audience” acknowledges the power of numbers while simultaneously expressing an appreciation for each unit making up the critical mass. Interestingly, the viewer observes Lucero's audience from the perspective of the artist, creating a mirror-effect that serves as a thoughtful overture to the show.
As has been true in past years, this juried exhibit is an intriguing mixed bag. Jennifer Nehrbass' fascinating large-scale oil painting, “Hannah's Handloader,” places a fashionably dressed Eisenhower-era lady in the middle of a wide grassy field. Nehrbass' image feels more photographic than painterly, more digital than analog. And although her heroine doesn't look particularly alarmed, she probably should be—given the fearsome birds of prey cutting through the foreground like slashes in fabric.
Deeper into the show, Lea Anderson's “Buttony-Green Recycle Spores” stands out despite its limited size. Here, brilliantly ornamented green shrooms sprout from plain drab bits of gridded fiberboard, as if to illustrate that the spontaneous chaos of nature will always trump human structures, both in terms of raw power and sheer beauty.
The single most entertaining piece in the show is probably Christine Chin's “The Genetically Modified Foods Cookbook and Video.” A set of headphones allows you to listen to a looped video of Chin cooking up various genetically modified monstrosities, incorporating such unlikely ingredients as “finger carrots” and “fiber plums.” Yech! You can also browse through the elaborate accompanying cookbook. (You might want to eat your lunch after visiting the gallery.) Chin ingeniously plays with the culinary anxiety that's a natural byproduct of a society in which people are largely disconnected from the things they eat.
Chin won this year's Ana Mendieta Prize. Two other prize winners are also featured in the show: Tara Zaleswky, who won the Friends of Art Prize and has even better work in a solo show over at the Donkey Gallery (which is coming down April 30), and Karl Hofmann, winner of the Florence Henri Prize.
This excellent sampling of graduate work is only open for another week or so. Get over to the Jonson to experience brave art from the fringes of our creative culture. Park in back, but do yourself a favor and enter through the front.
The 12 th Annual Juried Graduate Exhibition runs through May 5 at the Jonson Gallery (1909 Las Lomas NE). For more information, call 277-4967 or go to www.unm.edu/~jonsong/.
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