Art review: ‘Everything You Are Looking For’

Artisphere’s latest exhibition is happy to see you.

Step inside “Alicia Eggert: Everything You Are Looking For” and you’ll be greeted by a wall of box-style window fans periodically animating, with brief blasts of artificial wind, a curtain of red and silver tinsel streamers that spell out the word “Yay.”

Thanks, it’s great to be here.

Wander a bit farther in. From a distance you’ll see what looks like a lunatic’s model of the heavens: a stationary cluster of starlike white dots painted on a confused configuration of clock hands. Activated by a motion sensor, the motorized hands spring into action as you approach, rotating so the dots spell out the work’s one-word title, which also happens to be an apt description of the reaction it inspires: “Wonder.”

At the far end of the gallery is an even friendlier installation. Mounted on metal rods, several dozen gloves and mittens start waving like crazy whenever you pass hidden sensors. This part of the show might remind you of a puppy that wants to follow you home.

Yet as clever as Alicia Eggert’s work is, it isn’t all fun and games.

On the most obvious level, “Everything You Are Looking For” encourages a sense of discovery. That’s as apparent in “Wonder” as it is in the work that lends the show its title. Mounted on one of the gallery’s longest walls, Eggert’s neon sculpture “Everything You Are Looking For” appears, at first glance, to be little more than a sequence of meaningless letters. But as you look at it, certain letters blink on and certain other letters blink off, until the sculpture spells out its powerful message, in three separate sequences, “Everything you are. . . looking for is . . . invisible.”

Okay. That’s certainly one of the artist’s points: Look beneath the surface. The glove installation is funny, to be sure, but there’s a kernel of heartache just beneath the humor. Assembled from items lost on the street, the ghostly collection of gloves suggests their owners’ presence. Or, more precisely — and poignantly — their absence.

Eggert’s true point, you see, is the passage of time and the fleeting nature of the present.

One tiny work, mounted above the information desk near the show’s entrance, is a simple plastic sign. But it’s perhaps the most succinct evocation of Eggert’s theme. One side reads “Now”; the other, “Then.” A second sculpture, titled “Now,” again features an array of spinning clock hands that, for only a fraction of second, arrange themselves to spell out the work’s title, before dissolving into incoherence.

A third similarly themed work is called “NOW . . . NO, NOW . . . NO, NO, NO . . . NOW.” Like a broken traffic sign that can’t seem to make up its mind, the neon sculpture features the letters N, O and W, blinking on and off randomly. Hesitation, impulse, confusion and delight — these are Eggert’s subjects, as well as her material.

Art is long, as the saying goes, and life is short. For Eggert, whose art plays hide-and-seek with her audience, sometimes it’s the other way around.

The Story Behind the Work

Some of the works in “Everything You Are Looking For” were created by Alicia Eggert in collaboration with her artistic and life partner, Mike Fleming. “Eternity” is one such piece. Like many of the kinetic, text-based sculptures in the show, it’s a sign made out of motorized clock hands. Unlike several other pieces of that nature, however, this one moves at a snail’s pace. The hands spell out the word “eternity” — but only once every 12 hours. (The best time to see it is about 7 p.m.)

As it turns out, Eggert and Fleming have collaborated on another, even more long-term venture, the culmination of which will reveal itself only over many, many years. The couple are expecting their first child.

— Michael O’Sullivan

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Michael O’Sullivan has worked since 1993 at The Washington Post, where he covers art, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture.

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