In Equivocal Topographies, a show of work by Constance Lowe and Beverly Penn on view at Southwest School of Art & Craft, Penn’s exquisite wall pieces are made of dried plants cast in bronze. With its inherent implications of sturdiness, the metal belies the delicate nature of the flora that formed its structure. Each captivating specimen preserves ephemera in a manner that is both delightful and somewhat confounding. “Twin,” from 2006, is especially fetching. An assortment of once-flowering weeds arranged in gracefully curving arches forms a large square. A circle of thorny brambles beckons, Medusa-like, from its center. The orderly nature of what lies outside the circle provides a noticeable contrast to the wildness that emerges from within.
Lowe’s work exudes a psychological aspect with a creative twist. Her imagery is based on Rorschach ink blots, adding an element of self-consciousness to the viewing experience as each abstract image can be interpreted in endless ways. Many of the works are colored pencil on drafting film, a medium that allows the colors to blur and the forms to blend effortlessly. Each dreamy picture offers an occasional glimpse of something familiar, though these sudden flashes of recognition are immediately subsumed by confusion. The subjects seem to be just within reach, but a step back reveals only process, suggesting the foolishness of our desire to define what we see.
The fanciful, mysterious nature of Penn’s and Lowe’s work is echoed in Min-Tse Chen’s Story at Joan Grona Gallery. Curator Kimberly Aubuchon met the artist, who was born in Taiwan and currently works in Beijing, when they both attended The Art Institute of Chicago. The influence of Asian calligraphy and narrative art is evident in Chen’s technically impressive drawings, though imaginative imagery propels the work beyond the realm of illustration.
“Exquisite Corpse 1-20” is particularly compelling: Twenty sheets of paper, alternating brown and white, are arranged in a grid under Plexiglas. A large drawing covers them all, though they are offered as 20 separate objects. The imagery is not abstract, but a dreamlike quality makes interpretation virtually impossible. While Chen depicts identifiable subjects, such as a girl morphing into an elephant which she holds up by its ears, they are surreal and incoherent. The bizarreness of each configuration renders the Dadaist title absolutely relevant to this work, and applicable to the rest of the show.
Binocular Rivalry, on view at Sala Diaz, features new work by Joey Fauerso and Michael Velliquette inspired by a recently completed residency in Iceland. The show’s title also belongs to a video piece, which the artists created together. Images of trash and dead birds compete with majestic landscape shots, provoking a sense of desperation in response to the destructive force of pollution. A surrealist component lends an aura of fantasy to the film, as feathers morph into sea spray and clouds. This unnatural imagery underscores the senselessness with which humans corrupt nature’s beauty.
Construction paper is Velliquette’s chosen medium for his obsessively detailed and whimsical collages. Decorated vases full of multi-hued, pinwheel-like flowers sit atop tables of woven paper strips. The 3-D aspect of the work is most pronounced in a fantastic waterfall, cascading down to a verdant meadow under fluffy clouds and a shining sun. One work depicts a radiant sunburst over a turbulent ocean full of drowning men, the juxtaposition emphasizing the power, both rejuvenating and destructive, of the natural world.
Fauerso’s watercolors are lovely and mysterious, their subjects secretive and cryptic. Several pieces depict lush, green grass in such meticulous detail they almost resemble photographs. Each lawn is marked by a depression in the ground, caused by some unknown force. Some of the works possess a peephole quality, the image captured in an oval shape, surrounded by white paper. A particularly compelling piece contains a small tower of rocks at the edge of a cliff, the blue-grey placid sea below. The stack appears expertly placed, though it would topple if the slightest breeze were to throw it off balance, providing an apt metaphor for the precarious state of our environment. •
Constance Lowe and Beverly Penn
9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun
Through Aug 17
Southwest School of Art & Craft
Russell Hill Rogers Gallery
Min-Tse Chen: Story
11am-5pm Tue-Fri, 11am-6pm Sat
Through Aug 16
Joan Grona Gallery
112 Blue Star
Through Jul 27