Alibi V.19 No.17 • April 29-May 5, 2010 

Gallery Review

Hi-Tech Husbandry

Artificial Selection at 516 ARTS

“Milk Cow,” sculpture by Stephanie Metz
“Milk Cow,” sculpture by Stephanie Metz

While dystopic visions of a world in which technology has gotten the better of us are in vogue, they aren't new (hello Frankenstein) either. The just-opened show at 516 ARTS, Artificial Selection, is mindful of this. The exhibit nods to the past with a play off of an old theory, that of Charles Darwin's natural selection, but with a few decidedly modern twists.

“The Trough,” painting by Heidi Taillefer
“The Trough,” painting by Heidi Taillefer

Whereas Darwin's findings describe the ways in which environment gradually affects the natural development of traits in organisms, Artificial Selection, according to curator Rhiannon Mercer, explores "the intentional manipulation of given factors—through breeding and experimentation—to yield or combine preferred traits."

The result is a show that is both stunning and shocking, and easily one of the best Albuquerque has seen. Eighteen artists from across North America present their imaginings of what happens when the power to create and alter is unchecked, examining the results of philosophy outpaced by technology.

The result is a show that is both stunning and shocking, and easily one of the best Albuquerque has seen.

Accordingly, some of the most successful works are the most disturbing. Stephanie Metz' series of "overbred" creatures uses felted wool to envision creatures bred to fulfill very particular human needs, such as a cow whose udders resemble breasts and a lap dog with truncated stumps for legs.

The paintings of Canadian Heidi Taillefer are among the more beautiful entries in the show. Her use of classical detail to showcase heavily modified animals (as in "The Eunoch," which features a ram repurposed as a kind of calliope) marries the whimsical with the horrifying. Similarly, Laurie Hogin's What Ails Us: The 100 Most-Prescribed Pharmaceuticals is a series of oil paintings that renders popular pills as guinea pigs in various colors and stages of discomfort.

Artificial Selection illustrates that the best art isn't simply beautiful. Here, it's a catalyst for serious engagement and evaluation. And for the next two months, it's your best bet to see statues of creepy rabbits.

Artificial Selection

Runs through June 26
516 ARTS
516 Central SW

Saturday, May 1, 2 p.m.
“Robotics + Art—Theory & Technology Smack Down!” panel discussion

For more related events (including—full disclosure—a 516 WORDS reading featuring Hakim Bellamy, Carlos Contreras and little ol’ me), go to 516arts.org.