Art that has you to do the work
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, October 26, 2012
In the written description of sculptor Richard Vosseller’s “Midway Through the Journey/Take It to the Bridge/Pick Up Sticks” -- a muscular, arch-shaped construction of wooden timbers, stone and steel on view at the Arlington Arts Center -- the gallery calls it a “resting place for visitors.”
And you may need somewhere to lie down after experiencing “Fall Solos.”
The annual showcase of emerging artists features contributions by seven artists, including Vosseller, but a lot of the real work is done by you.
Feel like taking some pictures? Be sure to visit Nancy Daly’s installation, where the artist has created a series of quirky sculptures that she wants you to photograph with your smartphone, using Instagram, and then upload to the app with the hashtag #nancydalyaac, creating a portable, user-generated gallery of the artist’s -- and your -- handiwork.
Naomi J. Falk will keep you busy. Her interactive sculpture (called “Shift,” in a reference to working hours) is made from sacks that you fill with wood pellets and stack like sandbags. There’s a bin of pellets with a metal scoop in the corner next to a pile of old denim, made from the cut-off legs of worn blue jeans. Tie them off with twine and stack them up. The shape of the sculpture -- which looked like a low wall meant to prevent flooding when I visited -- depends entirely on you, and anyone else who comes along.
Similarly, Warren Craghead’s “Seed Toss” initiative involves a fair amount of effort. An entire wall is filled with Craghead’s crude, handmade postcards, which you’re expected to address, write a message on and then drop into a mailbox at the gallery, along with a suggested $5 donation. At the end of the show, the artist will add stamps and mail them for you.
Another wall is filled with Craghead’s Post-it drawings. Take one with you when you leave, photograph it somewhere in the world and then e-mail the photo to the artist. He’ll post it on his Web site, www.seedtoss.com. At a table in the corner, visitors can even make little matchbook-size books, designed by the artist. Those you can keep.
If you’re not worn out by this point, there is still more to see. But don’t worry, the rest of the show is, generally speaking, less labor-intensive.
Timothy Thompson’s faux-historical markers are the best, or at least the funniest, stuff in the show. Meant to evoke the plaques you see at historical sites, Thompson’s parodies sharply poke fun at notions of artworld celebrity and changing tastes.
Painter Laura Hudson’s “On Common Ground (I Will Always Love You)” is less incisive. Stylistically, her four large-canvas groupings of human figures -- taken from video images the artist shot at AAC during an overnight “slumber party” -- are reminiscent of Ida Applebroog’s flat, affectless renderings of people. In the gallery, the artist has set up folding chairs for visitors to sit on, but she hasn’t given them a reason to stay.
The last artist is Barbara Bernstein. You’ve got to pity anyone who gets stuck in AAC’s Tiffany Gallery, where artwork has to compete with an entire wall of stained-glass windows. But Bernstein’s site-specific installation -- which makes use of black masking tape to create a wall drawing that references both the room’s architecture and the Tiffany glass’s heavy black outlines -- may be the best use of that awkward space I’ve ever seen.
Better yet, even though Bernstein’s work expects you to stand in a specific spot to get the best view, you can take it all in it without breaking a sweat.
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, October 26, 2012
BEHIND THE WORK
As sculpture, Nancy Daly’s work in “Fall Solos” falls flat. Maybe you’re just looking at it wrong.
There’s something off about the pieces on view: a tiny bust of Elvis, a bowl of fake fruit, a bathroom sink and a coffee cup, among other installations evoking the banalities of everyday life. Here and there, patches of the objects are painted white, sometimes in odd, angular configurations, leaving other parts unpainted.
What Daly wants you to do requires some effort -- and a smartphone. Open Instagram, the photo-sharing app that creates old-fashioned square photos to which you can apply one of a number of filter effects. Now, position your cameraphone in such a way that only the white parts of the sculpture fill the frame, from edge to edge. Snap, add a filter and share.
Congratulations. You’ve just created something called a skeuomorph, a fancy industrial-design term for something newfangled that’s made to resemble something old-fangled. Examples include the “click” sound your camera on your smartphone makes and, yes, Instagram itself, which creates a digital photo album -- call it social sculpture -- that you can share with your closest friends or, in this case, total strangers.
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, October 19, 2012
Group exhibitions work best when there’s a larger theme to be illuminated by shining a light on it from different angles. But those shows aren’t necessarily great for the individual artists, whose work can get lost in the big picture.
That’s what I like about the Arlington Arts Center, which twice a year -- in the spring and fall -- selects a handful of artists to showcase in a little greater depth.
On Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. there will be a reception for “Fall Solos.”
The current crop of artists, each of whom gets his or her own room, includes Barbara Bernstein, Warren Craghead, Nancy Daly, Naomi J. Falk, Laura Hudson, Timothy Thompson and Richard Vosseller.