Distinctive, Unusual Displays At Sheldon
January 04, 2012
In the Sheldon's multiple art galleries, viewers can expect the unusual, as well as exhibitions that can seem a bit too familiar. One such comfortable re-cap that documents a period of history is the current showing of paintings by Wallace Herndon Smith. Yet, alongside, is a gallery filled to the brim with architectural imaginings that whisk present realities into a utopian future. "Material Landscapes," curated by Liane Hancock from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, is such a distinctive display.
Then there are more experimental exhibitions such as "I'll be your Mirror," curated by Webster University's Daniel McGrath, on display through Feb. 11. The theme of this show is founded on the concept of the doppelganger — the double or look-alike. The exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, photographs and videos, and each work gives the viewer pause. Meaning is not immediately transparent, but for most of these works, reaching for the bar of understanding is worth the effort.
In a small but nifty work titled "Tottenham Court," by Gunther Herbst, the doppelganger theme is most clearly seen. In this diptych, two oil panels reflect mirror images; a makeshift cardboard box, taped together, evokes memories of homeless people seeking shelter from the weather in such crude structures. Herbst paints several fallen leaves on the cardboard surfaces, suggesting the threat that time, seasons and weather present to the homeless, whom the artist may have encountered in his London neighborhood.
"Trespasses," a compelling albeit somewhat confusing video by B.J. Vogt, documents a performance piece. Vogt says this is a slap-stick version of sibling rivalry, but it seems to accomplish much more than that.
Two look-alike individuals morph into one another through the compositing of video tracks. The process creates tension between the bizarre actions performed by the actors and the strange beauty of the kaleidoscopic images. One actor, who seems to be in control and the tormentor, taunts and mimics the other, a captive victim seeking relief from this evil reality through repetitive chanting of a formulaic prayer. The soundtrack echoes against stark and cavernous concrete walls and would seem not at all the stuff of slapstick.
Less successful is the more heavy-handed video, "Dark Knight of the Soul," by Slater Bradley. In some imagined future time, an astronaut visits our desolate planet. Wearing a NASA-like costume, complete with American flag, the actor wanders through New York's Natural History Museum, while playing a child's music-box recording of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Although intriguing in the beginning, the video becomes tiresome as it falls into obvious allusions of ecological disaster.
Hannah Greeley's beer bottle, "Doug," made of cast resin, gives a wink to Jasper Johns' bronze beer can, but also succeeds in raising questions about consumerism and how our objects and artifacts might reflect our culture to future examiners. Will archeologists conclude that the ubiquitous golden arched architecture, styrofoam cups and glass or plastic bottles indicate discovery of the sacred temples and ritual vessels of our culture?
I'll Be Your Mirror