Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bause does bathrooms

by Dean Liscum

Generally, I don't post pictures that I take in public least not on this blog. For Heather Bause's show Wall Paper: As Art / if you sprinkle when you tinkle in the Art League's Main Gallery restroom, I'll make an exception.

The history of wallpaper is almost as old as paper itself. However, it didn't get industrial, and thus affordable for the masses, i.e., popular, until the advent of the printing press. In 1481 Louis XI hired Jean Bourdichon to paint 50 rolls of paper that he could use to decorate the walls as he moved from castle to castle.

...on the bathroom stall door
Heather Bause's art as wall paper derives its pedigree from Bourdichon and not the printing press. With Linda Darke of Darke | gallery playing the role of Louis XI, Bause spent three weeks going up and down a ladder and drawing\hand-painting thousands of images of a single Damask pattern.

close-up from the Main Gallery bathroom
The installation also references other artistic endeavors involving walls and paper and restrooms as noted by the Art League's description of the show on their website.
This innovative installation references the 1920's tradition adopted by many art museums of displaying hand drawn wallpaper in public restrooms as a way of creating a nontraditional creative environment, as well as the iconic series of custom-made wallpaper art installations known as Room Art created by noted artists such as Andy Warhol, John Baldessari and Sol Lewitt.
wall and vanity
(picture courtesy of Jennifer Ash
of the Art League Houston)

But what engages me is not the references. It's the repetition: image after image after image. Here a precisely limned leaf. There a florid, curving stem, blurry and paint-smeared. Here a tightly tempered tip. There a wobbly curve, oblique, the center not holding, the bristles gone berserk. The comparisons can be mesmerizing,

...too mesmerizing as a polite cough attempts to get my attention so that I'll notice that the owner of the cough is waiting to use the restroom

...and not enough as that person frowns when I say, "don't mind me. I've got plenty to look at here." 


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