ARTISTS TAKE TEXT TO NEW HEIGHTS
In A Strong, Intriguing Jurored Show At The Sawtooth Building
Words, Letters, Numbers
Published on November 15, 1998
© 1998 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
By Tom Patterson
Though exhibits resulting from jurored competitions often prove to be so uneven and varied that they lack any sense of curatorial coherence, the latest jurored show sponsored by Associated Artists of Winston-Salem is a welcome exception to that rule.
The "ARText"exhibit, on view in the Sawtooth Building through Nov. 28, has a strong but fairly open-ended thematic focus, and guest juror Teresa Bramlette applied rigorous standards to the selection process.Bramlette, the director of Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, viewed 124 pieces from more than 500 entries. The exhibit represents the efforts of 70 artists from across the United States. Among the show's more traditional contributions are calligraphic pieces by Barbara Yale-Read, amusing illustrated narratives by Diane McFarland and works that pair poetic texts with thematically compatible images, such as A. Doren's "Cloud Landscape" photos accompanied by original haiku poems.
Of the collages that make up a significant portion of the exhibit, some hark back to the pioneering experiments of several European artists early in the 20th century. For example, Carole Kunstadt's Plein Tarif and Beijing are compact pieces that juxtapose fragments of postage stamps, advertising logos, plant materials and other small objects in a manner that recalls collages made by Braque and Picasso.
Other collage works are more contemporary in the ways they reference pop culture and incorporate elements of ironic humor.
Among such pieces is Margaret Gluhman's Dallas, in which a "Howdy from Dallas" postcard is surrounded by a gridded network of tiny, brightly colored, kitschy images that highlight themes involving sexuality, death, violence, paradise and temptation.
In his grid-format collage, Perros de la Prensa (Dogs of the Press), William Sapp satirizes the sensationalistic tendencies of the mass media by interspersing fragmentary images and headlines from Latin American tabloid newspapers among silhouettes of a cartoonish man crawling on all fours.
Carol Burtner also employs a grid format in her contributions to the show, two of which are collages that embody a deadpan style of humor in the way they play with a strategy of variation within a repetitive series. In The Exorcism of Page 13, she has cut out small squares from the 13th numbered pages of various books and magazines, then arranged them to form a series of grids in five small frames. And in 20 Carols she has cut out 20 small captioned photo portraits - all of people who share Burtner's first name - from school yearbooks and arranged them in a grid within a single frame. Dean Kessman took an elegant approach to transforming a book's pages in his Rorschach Bible. To create this piece, he made slightly blurry photographs of an open Bible, then superimposed a bilaterally symmetrical Rorschach- style ink blot over the center of each pair of facing pages. The result is a series of abstract compositions that comment on the Bible's openness to individual interpretation - a process which, like the Rorschach tests used by psychoanalysts, tends to reveal more about the interpreter than about that which is being interpreted.
The Bible is also the source for two of the show's three pieces by Bonnie Klehr, in which she embroiders quoted textual passages in single lines of cursive script, then drapes them on hooks attached to the wall. The two biblical passages are from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and the Apostle Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. Klehr's third piece here quotes novelist Edith Wharton.
Also of interest is Alison Slein's blue neon sign whose illuminated cursive-lettered words carry a metaphorical declaration of emotional and sexual vulnerability: "I can't wrap my legs tight enough together to keep my soul from sliding out between them."
The human body's vulnerability is also the theme of another particularly memorable contribution to the exhibit, John Murphy's group of four "Assemblages." Each of these is a full-size man's dark suit consisting of a jacket and matching slacks arranged to suggest a human figure and labeled on the front with an aluminum plate incised with a single verb that describes what clothing does to or for the body - "CONCEAL," "ENCASE," "EMBODY" and "CONSTRICT." After the label has been applied, each suit has been vacuum-sealed between two layers of transparent plastic wrap, and all four suits have been hung from the ceiling of the Milton Rhodes Gallery like freshly dry-cleaned clothes.
Another highlight of the exhibit is Katherine Shaugnessy's Princess Isabella Coloring Book, which falls into a category all its own. Shaugnessy has cleverly copied the style and format of a children's coloring book to create a scathingly satirical piece that uses cutesy cartoon characters and a mockingly innocent narrative to critique contemporary standards of physical beauty and warn about the potential hazards of recently developed bio-engineering techniques.
Among the other artists who have contributed noteworthy pieces to the show are John Pickel, Martin Kruck, Heath Statow, Lizzie Saltz, Michael Jackson, Patti Bryan, Jacque Leebrick, Roy Nydorf, Karen Jelenfy, Ginger Spangler, Nancy Kellar, Jason Riper, Betsy Embry and Kenneth Bond.
Illustrations/Photos: PHOTO; IN THE SHOW: Alison Slein's blue neon sign. Type: BLACK AND WHITE
TOM PATTERSON,ARTISTS TAKE TEXT TO NEW HEIGHTS IN A STRONG, INTRIGUING JURORED SHOW AT THE SAWTOOTH BUILDING WORDS, LETTERS, NUMBERS, 11-15-1998, pp 3.