The second and third stops on Chris Sauter’s multi-locational pilgrimage take place at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum and at Fl!ght Gallery at 1906 South Flores. “Doubt,” meanwhile, lives until February 2 at Southwest School of Art (see “Dark Matters: Chris Sauter explains it all (not),” December 11).
“Faith and Reason,” the apparition at Blue Star’s Gallery 4, is a wall-mounted series of photographs along the lines of title piece at SSA’s “Doubt.” As in that photograph, Sauter seats you in an airplane, looking out at the sky. Sometimes you’re on the aisle, as with Faith and Reason, in which two airliner windows are further framed by the seats in front of and behind you, with the words “Faith” and “Reason” casually scrawled on the panes. Sometimes you’re peering out straight, though, no window frame, as in Arrogance and Denial, the only manufactured bit of vista the wing of the mid-flight aircraft, if you don’t count the graffiti-like marker labels.
Taken in the aggregate, the series is described thusly: The words relate to ideas generated by the experience of flight. The view out the window of the landscape and sky transcend average terrestrial experience. It is a potent example of the power of innovation and the majesty of nature, flirting with the intersection of spirituality and science.
That comes off, definitely, even if the text is a little reductive. Wall text is almost always a problem. The photographs serve to amplify and resonate with each other, but it takes each one, like the Stations of the Cross, to get the ball rolling. The lonely traumas of arrogance and denial are tempered by the soft wondrous sunset horizon of Trust and the simple, holy and funny reflex of a window-framed Holy Crap. It takes the weighty stuff of context for an utterance so casual to feel so funny, but it’s really in the meditation on each image (and in the glass of each, of course, you see the reflection of yourself) in this chapel that the viewer really arrives.
A mile or so away at Fl!ght, “The Shape of the Universe” takes its material from cosmic architecture. Staring at each other from across the gallery’s four walls are the footprints of four holy buildings. The shapes are filled in with images of the dark galaxy clusters of the Hubble Deep Field, photographs captured in 1995. You’re looking at chunks of outer space divvied up into St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Buddhist Borobudar temple in Indonesia, the Hindu Kandariya temple in Pradesh, India, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Each structured is named accordingly, and prefixed “The Shape of the Universe.”
In size and orientation, the cosmic footprints are presented with a kind of equanimity. Unless you already know the blueprints, it’s hard to tell which represented building is dedicated to which faith—or combination of faiths, in the case of the highly contested Dome of the Rock. United in their astronomical interiors, Sauter accords power and gravitas respectfully.
There’s no punch line, as it were, nothing like the pivot of Holy Crap that cruxes “Faith and Reason.” But in the middle of these gallery walls crouches Reliquary, an actual telescope (as opposed to constructed in toto by Sauter, which he’s done for other works) remade into a beautiful icon in gold leaf.
To say that Sauter reifies the exploration of other galaxies through this baroque device sounds like wall text, frankly, and it’s just one generalization among the many delicate effects he accomplishes. “Doubt,” the first and, thus far, the grandest chapter of his pilgrimage, is like the mouth of the journey, loading you up with the canon of doctrines, misgivings and sacred images needed to get you on your way. As with “Faith and Reason,” “The Shape of the Universe” feels like a readymade prayer chapel. Relating to the vehicles of heavenly travel, and the portals between earthly stone and the megacosm, respectively, these two smaller stops wait for you to visit and offer your murmurings.
Chris Sauter: Faith and Reason
Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum
116 Blue Star
Through Jan 19, 2014
Chris Sauter: The Shape of the Universe
1906 S Flores
Through Jan 26, 2014