Thursday, December 9, 2010

Panoramic View: (Text)ure

Renee Benson, No. 97, 2010, Acrylic on
Canvas, 30" x 40"
Aside from the delightfully mischievous pun included in the exhibition's name, I wasn't immediately certain what, in particular, drew me to (Text)ure. The exhibition is a decidedly abstract collaboration between DCCA studio artists Felise Luchansky and Renee Benson. On two of the adjacent walls, Renee Benson's paintings of swirling, multi-colored dots beg the viewer to reach out and touch--at the risk of invoking the wrath (well, perhaps its more like "mild annoyance") of the security guards. Spreading across the two opposite walls is Felise Luchansky's piece Release, a collection of dot and dash shaped canvases that spell out the title of the piece in morse code. At first glance, the exhibition is rather sparse. But where's the fun in taking just one look? It turns out that this seeming austerity is naught but a clever ruse, for the exhibition is much busier and--dare I say--noisier that it first appears.

Luchansky's piece sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. Yes, the canvases she puts on the walls are small on their own. When put together, however, one can't help but feel as though one is being shouted at by a drill sergeant. When put together, Release is a loud  and provocative statement. "Loud," may seem to be a strange word to describe a piece of visual art, but it isn't too far off the mark. By using morse code in Release, Luchansky fuses the taps and tones of morse code with the visuality of paint on canvas. The result is a strange, synesthetic experience that bridges the gap between sound and sight, thus completely overwhelming the viewer.

Said viewer might attempt to regain some sense of equilibrium by immersing him/herself in Renee Benson's work, but that would be what we internet folk call an "epic fail." Benson's pieces are incredibly precise and frantic arrangements of dots on barely-there curves and slashes in the paintings surface. In conjunction with Release, it's difficult to view these dots as anything other than morse code. Except, if one were to attempt to decode these dots and slashes, all one would find is a jumble of half formed words and overlapping letters. In fact, "listening" to one of Benson's pieces would be much like trying to eavesdrop  on a specific conversation in the middle of Times Square--or developing schizophrenia, but I'm trying to limit myself to one mental disorder per blog post, so let's go with Times Square. In a discussion of the exhibition, Felise Luchansky mentions the prevalence of texting in our society. If one were able to see the transmissions from one phone to another and the criss-crossing lines of communication that fly through the air around us, they might look a little like (Text)ure. The texture of the modern world, then, is a frantic curve of cell phone signals and the dots of our modern version of morse code.

The exhibition is a wonderful exploration of modern telecommunication and modern communication in general, but with the snatches of conversation swirling along the walls and sounding in our imagination, we are left with an unanswered question: What, exactly, are we supposed to release? The answer to this question could be anything from "inhibitions" to "your hold on that painting, ma'am" (this spoken by a mildly annoyed security guard) to "your message into the world." It's impossible to find an answer in the swirling masses of dots. It is, perhaps, this uncertainty that makes (Text)ure so appealing.

Well, that and the opportunity to use the word synesthetic in a blog post.


"(Text)ure" is being exhibited in the Elizabeth Denison Hatch Gallery at the DCCA. The exhibition will run until January 2, 2011.

"Panoramic View" is a series of posts dedicated to stepping back and looking at exhibits at the DCCA in their entirety.

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