Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Big Show 2011, part 3--Funny Ha-ha or Funny Weird

by Robert Boyd

(This is the third part of a long review. It stands alone, but feel free to read part 1 and part 2.) Generally speaking, sculpture was not dominant in the Big Show. Whether this reflected Larissa Harris's taste, or the general work submitted, or the considerations of space (you can display more flat art than three dimensional art)--or some combination of the three--I don't know. But there was some sculpture, and some of it was pretty striking.

Jesse A. Kantu, Soul Mates, toy rabbits on wood stretcher bars, 2010

Jesse A. Kantu plays with the definition of sculpture a bit. With Soul Mates, the artist uses one of the key physical elements of a painting, the stretcher, as part of a sculptural object. A stretcher is the wooden structure over which canvas is stretched prior to painting.

Jesse A. Kantu, Soul Mates (detail), toy rabbits on wood stretcher bars, 2010

The cute little toy rabbits are tiny--from a distance, they look like insects crawling on the stretcher. I found this piece cute, and was pleased that in a show that seemed to celebrate painting, that there was one piece that made fun of painting.

Generally, the sculptors in the show had a light touch. If "big colorful paintings" was the dominant theme of the Big Show, a major sub-theme was "somewhat humorous sculptures".

Shannon Duckworth, Untitled (cube), floppy disks, wood, Plexi and screws, 2011

For instance Shannon Duckworth's Untitled, where he makes a kind of Rubik's Cube out of old floppy discs. Floppy discs are pretty much an obsolete technology, so what do you do with all these billions of useless pieces of plastic? At least some of them can be art. (Interestingly, Stephanie Saint Sanchez made a couch out of old VHS tapes that didn't make it into the show--she showed it at the Salon des Refusés .) I suspect we'll see sculptures made out of old iPods in coming years.

Brent Kramlich, Post-Op #1, 2, and 3, aluminum wire, paraffin wax and human hair, 2009

Brent Kramlich is the kind of artist I expect to discover at the Big Show. He teaches at a middle school in Katy, and probably that full-time job keeps him from being highly involved in the local art scene. This is the art scene's loss, because apparently he is creating some interesting, very weird, slightly disgusting art there in Katy. Post-Op #1, 2 and 3 look like bits of nasty tissue that have been removed in surgery.  The use of human hair in them is gives them an extra squirm factor. They are tiny sculptures, easy to overlook in a gallery full of large paintings, but they pack a punch. They are literally visceral. Of course, I can't help but be reminded of Jasmine Graybill's life-size sculptures of mold which were included in the 2009 Big Show.

Noah Edmundson, E. F. and G. Firearms Mfg., steel, wood and found objects, 2011

Noah Edmundson's E.F. and G. Firearms Mfg is, of course, a giant revolver. There's always something kind of amusing about a radically out-of-scale sculpture. Claes Oldenburg realized that giant versions of more-or-less commonplace items would produce childlike delight in viewers, and I'm sure many viewers felt the same looking at this piece.But given the vintage of the gun (old), it made me think of signage--particularly 19th century and early 20th century signage. A dentist might have a giant tooth hanging in front of his office, for example. And E.F. and G. Firearms Mfg. might well have an enormous six-shooter hanging over their entrance.

Maria Smits, The Adoration of the Dogs (foreground), mixed media, wood, plastic and plaster, 2011, and New Madonna No.4 (background), mixed media, plastic, glass, resin and plaster, 2011

Maria Smits is continuing in the vein of sculpture that we recently saw at her solo exhibit at Lawndale. That exhibit featured a large, multi-part drawing that was a play on Jan van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Her version was Adoration of the Mystic Dog. That exhibit also featured an enormous sculpture of a dog that was partly made with cling film. She used a similar material (tape?) here. The figures are bound and obscured by their wrappings. If the wrappings were gauze, one would imagine them as injured. But wrapping them in plastic is more sinister. Not for nothing, David Lynch had Laura Palmer's body wrapped in plastic in the series Twin Peaks. But if we think of it as tape, we can see it as holding the sculpture together--a much more positive interpretation.

So much for The Big Show 2011. As much as I covered in these three reviews, I barely scratched the surface. I strongly recommend making a trip to Lawndale to see the rest. And if you aren't going to be in Houston any time soon, Lawndale has most of the show up on their Flickr page.


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