Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Depth: Sluts and Studs

Nava Atlas, Sluts and Studs, 2008, Clothbound flag book
with pigmented inkjet pages, Edition of five, 14" x 32" (open)

It seems that the subversive spirit of the book mushrooms has taken root here at Artistic Novelty. Or, at the very least, it has spread to other books in The Book: A Contemporary View. In contrast to the broad spectrum of subversion to which the book mushrooms are relevant, however, Nava Atlas's flag book Sluts and Studs specifically confronts its readers with the markedly different words and dialogues that have come to define men's sexuality and women's sexuality in western culture. This confrontation causes us to question the validity of each group of terms and the extent to which they are a balanced representation of sex among the sexes. It becomes clear, and rather quickly, that said discourses aren't very balanced or fair at all. While this point will not be new to anyone who has ever been a part of any social scene, Atlas's presentation of the subject gives her viewers the opportunity to examine just how much--or how little--progress has been made in closing the ideological gap between discussions about male and female sexuality since it first appeared.

The book unfolds to reveal a pop-up grid of words in blue, words in hot pink, pictures in hot pink, and pictures in blue. Give yourself ten points if you can guess which color goes with the men and which color goes with the women. The pictures themselves are from the early-to-middle twentieth century, the times of screen idols and planes decorated with pin-up girls. While it isn't clear where the pictures of the men originally appeared, it's a fair bet that the women's pictures were originally used as pin-ups. On the inside of the front and back covers the words on the grid, still in their representative colors, are accompanied by their dictionary definitions. Words relating to women alternate with words relating to men. Troublingly, words with negative connotations alternate with words with positive connotations. Can you guess which words are positive and which are negative? I thought so. Give yourself ten more points.

The pictures, after you've read the words and definitions, are troubling. Each of the men is shown from somewhere in the vicinity of the collar bone and up. There isn't anything particularly sexual about these depictions unless one counts a glint in an eye here and there. If anything, the expression of these mens' faces is self-assured and confident. Despite the lack of sexuality in the pictures, they are paired with words that identify them as sexual beings. The women, in contrast, are shown from the waist or the breasts up, sport elaborate coiffures that are in just enough disarray, and wear, well, very little. These images are meant to be alluring and, though the women in them are often confident and self-assured, their confidence isn't really the point of these pictures.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Panoramic View: Perforations

Bonnie Crawford Kotula, Perforations, 2011, electrical
circuitry, wood, mixed media, Site-specific installation for
the DCCA.
Perhaps it's the darkness.
Perhaps it's the pulsing lights.
Perhaps it's the lure of trying to figure out what prom dress that balled up piece of tulle came from.

Whatever it is, there's no denying that there's something fascinating about Bonnie Crawford Kotula's installation, Perforations. Kotula has transformed the DCCA's E. Avery Draper Showcase into a slice of the galaxy as seen through her eyes. Miniature sculptures that are reminiscent of satellites hang from the ceiling by threads that have been rendered invisible by low lighting. Pulsing light emitting diodes ( or LEDs) on the sculptures illuminate pieces of tulle and other bits and pieces that have also been suspended from the ceiling by thin strings.

These basic elements combine to form something riveting. The play of light on the suspended objects is hypnotic, especially given that the rate at which the lights pulse changes depending upon ambient light levels. Because each light is suspended by a string, all it takes is for a viewer to walk by to completely redirect the light. Even the viewer's position in the gallery can completely alter the system of pulsing lights.

There is an interesting push and pull at work between the viewer and the art work. Usually, art affects the viewer. In this installation, however, the art and the viewer affect each other. We are made aware, as viewers, of how our attention and contemplation can change an object. The changes in the lights' pulsations are a visual manifestation of the attention we give to the work. In this way, Kotula has made the abstract concept of attention into observable phenomenon.

Given this interaction, it may be fair to say that the fascination of Perforations lies in the opportunity to become aware of the processes at work in our own minds.  Kotula has acknowledged her belief in the long-lived idea that light can be equated with knowledge. In her installation, various lights affect and change each other, creating something new in the process. This process acts as a microcosm of how we move through the world and how neural pathways are formed in our mind. Each new experience--or change in illumination--alters how we think and how we interpret the world around us.

It is the fascination and wonder behind this process that transforms stray pieces of tulle into a riveting piece of art reminiscent of celestial bodies. Because the installation will never be exactly the same one moment as it was another, the piece represents infinite possibility as it exists on a human and celestial scale.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Special Event: Art on the Town

It's that time again, art fans.

Tonight marks the first "Art on the Town" event of 2011 and, in case that isn't enough to get you excited, it's also the launch of the DCCA's revised membership program. To celebrate the latter, the DCCA is giving Art Loop attendees a $5 discount and a free DCCA tee with every purchase or renewal of membership. The discount will only be offered tonight, so be sure to stop by the membership table and join up! We'll be the people shivering and smiling just inside the door.

In addition to our swanky revised membership program launch, the DCCA will have so many artists here discussing art, form, and color that you'll swear you've caught synesthesia. Jennilie Brewser, Jeffrey Stockbridge, Ted Carey, Roase Reeder, and Amee Pollack will all be here to talk about their work. Of course, there's always the possibility that they'll talk about each other's work, too, which can go two ways... The potential for monumental human drama is almost too much to bear!

If all of the above isn't enough to convince you to come out and join us, I'll offer one final incentive:

We have candy.