Cosmic Maintenance and Executions and Democracy at [AC]2 Gallery, and Metropolis 3 at MOV-iN Gallery
I’ve always been fascinated with artist biographies—poring over who did what, when and at what age. Like how Joseph Kosuth wrote Art After Philosophy and After when he was 24 or how Gordon Matta-Clark did his amazing architectural cuts before dying at the age of 35. This historical research matters when you make art. It’s barometric; using the lives of the artists you admire as a way to put your own career (or lack thereof) in context. If you’re 25 and you read that Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon when he was 26, it creates a kind of historical chip on your shoulder and you grumble back into the studio to try to one-up the bastard.
Last week, I dropped into [AC]2 Gallery to see Cosmic Maintenance by Linda Gelfman and Executions and Democracy by Sam Kerson and Katah. I had been sick and missed the gallery opening there and at every other space in town for the First Friday Artscrawl.
Gelfman fills the front of the gallery with dozens of ceramic sculptures and drawings. There’s an “earth mother” vibe to a lot of the pieces, and they’re everywhere. The gallery is full, creating something irrefutable in Gelfman’s effort and pushing through ideas that she finds integral to her creative being. The political lino cuts and posters of Sam Kerson and Katah are in the back room. The lino cuts illustrate a history of the death penalty and how it’s unfairly meted out.
There’s a sense Kerson and Katah are young and idealistic, railing against capital punishment and its institutionalized racist and classist agenda, trying to reframe the dead on religious terms. The quality of the lino cuts kept my interest and I moved through the entire death penalty series. And that’s necessary in any art, politically motivated or not: It’s got to have an aesthetic appeal to keep an audience on board.
Before my illness, I went to the MOV-iN Gallery on the campus of the College of Santa Fe to see Metropolis 3, an installation by Jordan Glazer and Spencer Neale, who are students of the Moving Image Arts Program (and also comprise the noise band Atmospheric Diver).
The basic experience of the show is as follows: You walk into the darkened gallery to find a La-Z-Boy in front of a projection, look for anyone else in said chair and then plop down in an effort to get involved in what’s happening around you. Depending on when you enter, you could find yourself looking at Chinese barges or closed-circuit-like footage of pedestrians on the street. The installation feels as though it were constructed just for you. You sit and wait, and the sound comes at you through four hanging speakers. It’s not a soundtrack so much as another piece in the space, although there are moments when the sound functions in an eidetic way, synced up with the moving images to add suspense and emotional intensity.
At some point while sitting in the La-Z-Boy, I found myself staring at the center of the hanging woofers, won over by their undulating and rippling surfaces. When the sound goes away—in all of its raw and droney splendor—I missed it and anticipated its return.
The exhibition’s surveillance-like video brought back eerie memories of Michael Haneke’s 2005 film Caché, in which a married couple receive videotapes of themselves from an anonymous watcher. Similarly, the bulk of the footage comes from unsuspected watching. There’s a point in the Metropolis 3 video when the camera zooms in on a woman walking many stories below, the camera getting closer and closer until her head takes up the entire frame. Unbeknownst to her, she has become raw material for two college students who have filtered her ghost through video effects, keeping the viewer glued to her face.
In the back of the room, there's a stationary bike with a contact microphone hooked to it sitting and waiting for a willing rider. When you get onto the bike, you pedal and listen to the weak thumps and whirs you create.
MOV-iN Gallery is small, which really promotes an isolated experience. If I had been there with someone else, I would have waited for my turn in the chair and, more than likely, shortened the experience of whoever I was with—it’s the art audience equivalent of pee-phobia. All in all, Metropolis 3 isn’t a life-changing encounter, but it’s indicative of the risks students in CSF’s Moving Image Arts program are willing to take.
In the long run, I've discovered, it’s always healthier to throw out the biographical information and give way to the excitement of an artist willing to take some chances.
Cosmic Maintenance and Executions and Democracy are on display at [AC] 2 Gallery (301 Mountain NE) through Oct. 5. For info, call 842-8016. Metropolis 3 is on display at MOV-in Gallery at the College of Santa Fe through Sept. 26. For info, call (505) 473-6400.
David Leigh is the director of the College of Santa Fe Fine Arts Gallery.