The supple ideas in “Lure” at Mesa College Art Gallery
CultureBuzz published an article about our “Lure” exhibit:
A theme show featuring multiple artists needs a good and supple idea. Happily, Lure fits that description.
Whether used as a verb or noun, lure is an alluring word. It also possesses a strong link to what art has to do to attract your attention in a world where so many other things are doing the same, in the name of consuming and entertaining us. Art attempts to entice, tempt, seduce or beguile you, whether it is appealing to the eye, your other senses, the mind, your emotions, or a combination of them.
Susan Myrland, who guest curated this exhibition for the Mesa College Art Gallery, emphasizes how artists use the same means as everyone else to grab us: light, sound, color and movement. Malls do this well, as Myrland reminds us in her statement on the gallery walls. So do everything from the swap meet to your favorite website. So what can the lone artist do that a savvy media and marketing team can’t do better?
Simply put, a lot. Less can be more. By that, I mean modest production values can trump big budget ones. You just have to know how to use them. Several artists in this show—their cities of origin include San Francisco, Los Angeles and, in the majority of cases, San Diego—do just that.
Myrland, working with gallery director Alessandra Moctezuma, disseminated the theme as a Request for Proposals. This placed her in the enviable position of picking and choosing what potential projects best fit the theme with which she began. She included 19 artists.
One who demonstrates the power of modesty of means is Rhonda Weppler. She uses light and color in an atmospheric way in the wryly titled Rite By Grocery. Her piece is a large-scale floor mounted light box. The imagery, Weppler explains, is from a convenience store window. There is a Corona bottle, a streamlined skyline, Heineken lettering and even the metal grille that serves to protect the window. She has employed a life-size film transparency on both sides of the box, with imagery turned on its side.
Seen this large in a gallery, the imagery gets a new context. It’s a kind of instant sculpture in a Pop vein. In her low-key way, Weppler heightens awareness of everyday commercial icons—both their visual appeal and how that appeal is a sales pitch.
This double vision, of wanting to entice us while making us aware of forms being used to seduce us, is a recurrent virtue of this show.
Kim Garcia takes advantage of the human inability to resist opportunities for voyeurism in Devoid. The wall-mounted objects in wood resemble cameras or viewing stations with peepholes. They fulfill this function, since their small lenses contain fleeting imagery of people and places in some unnamed setting. The viewing piques your curiosity and doesn’t wholly satisfy it. But the looking is enticing.
Making you aware of yourself in a state of perceiving has become a perennial preoccupation in recent art. Still, it can be freshly executed, as Curtis Bracher illustrates in Banquet. Fragmented table scenes, drawn in a calligraphic style, are hung in an asymmetrical fashion on a large expanse of one wall. Each is covered in an LCD Prism Screen that gently distorts the drawn image when looked at straight on and obliterates it when viewed from an angle.
Bracher makes this process of absorption genuinely appealing. So does Stephanie Bedwell’s Bower, with its humble and fragile architectural structure that invites us in. The bedding is soft and the audio of a cat purring is, as you might expect, a sweet soundtrack.
Other work is magnetic, paradoxically, by virtue of its grotesque qualities. Barbara Sexton’s mutated photographs of paired ears are repulsive. Turned on their sides somehow makes their strange shapes and apertures all the more strange. The photographs keep company with her stark diagrammatic drawings, which resemble both force fields and areas of the body. As an installation, the two groups of work are quietly menacing. Sexton represents the analytical strain in Lure, the desire to think about how visual codes and forms affect us. Alexander Jarman does too, with his environment, … while at the Office of Structural Analysis.
All the right props are present in Jarman’s office: filing cabinets, boxes with manila folders and so forth. But nothing really adds up. Why display cases of shoes without laces? Why are the laces in separate cases? Why the painting of shoes? And why the absence of any contemporary technology: computers, printers, etcetera. It’s as if this room is a relic of an old bureaucracy now forgotten. But its tattered quality only serves to make us aware of the essential visual code of the office itself. At the same time, the policies and structures that govern our everyday existence, one of Jarman’s preoccupations, really can’t be chronicled in this installation; they can only he hinted at. He seems aware that mystery prevails.
Jarman’s “office” is laced with irony. So are Dave Ghilarducci’s mechanical constructions. His artist’s statement is thick with language that would lead you to believe he is a true believer in a technological utopia of the near future. But the work undercuts the rhetoric. The box-like Zodiac sends forth messages in Morse code, the now obsolete language of the telegraph. One stares at its specific messages dumbly. But there is an implied message that is clear: the technological fortunes of society aren’t predictable. Yesterday’s advance is today’s relic.
This exhibition, for all of the complexity of its theme and the considerable ambitions of the work, is genuinely enjoyable. The varied uses of sound, light, color, movement and media do, well, prove seductive. Kudos to gallery director Alessandra Moctezuma for supporting a show with such an expansive concept. Cultivating projects like this is part of what makes her gallery program dynamic.
Next at Mesa: A new photographic series by James Luna, the performance and multimedia artist who is justly acclaimed for his witty and penetrating work that focuses on the relationship between American Indian culture and society at large. His show is entitled I Con. A second exhibition features Richard Lou, onetime San Diego artist whose installation, Stories on My Back, looks at his mixed Chinese and Mexican heritage, as well as links between the ancient and modern worlds. Both will be on view from March 17 through April 16.