Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scientific Conundrums

Jiayi Young, Light Experiment I, II, & III,
archival digital prints, 2003-2011

Tangent Gallery has operated now for five years, continually on a volunteer basis. Their thematic shows have brought together local and visiting artists to enhance the local artistic community with a focus on art production rather than a commercial enterprise. This year will be the last of these tangents, and February was an illuminating one. The show Light encompassed a vast breath of media that incorporated that radiant energy in conceptual and synthetic ways.

Chelsea Greninger, Stilt, lowfire clay, decals
light, wire, 2007
The work by Jiayi Young Light Experiment I, II, & III is the most formal study on the subject amongst the show. Young uses a series of layering to filter light and illuminate line. Without light we would not be able to appreciate the delicate renderings of line, rubbings, etchings, and sheets of vellum and paper that are scrawled with rigor. The transparencies carry marks that appear floating in mid air, while allowing light to pass through and cast angled shadows as well, playfully distorting the marks. Young tells us more about the properties of light by revealing some of the additive colors that make white light. The secondary colors—magenta, yellow, and cyan—are digitally added within the registers, composing a comprehensive study on the qualities of light.

The artist Chelsea Greninger has a background in psychology and her work seeks to capture the lingering images of childhood which ultimately shows the deterioration of memory.[1]  Her sculpture Stilt is a miniature dollhouse that appears whimsical at first glance. The multilevel platforms are elongated on long narrow wires, giving them a tumultuous, circus-like appearance. It is more of a miniature fun house that destabilizes with chaos. The yellow lighting adds an eerie glow that reveals imperfections and the decrepit state that turns away from the perfect childhood playhouse.

Katie Borcz, Prescription for a Lost Childhood,
mixed media, 2012
Another gripping work is Prescription for a Lost Childhood by Katie Borcz that uses plastic prescription containers illuminated byway of a string of lights. The incandescent glow brings attention to the degrading statements so often lashed out at children: “You are useless;” “You can’t do anything right.” Borcz notes their common usage “—told until appropriate behavior is achieved.” The use of medicine containers encapsulates the tendency as a social norm, underscoring the commonplace of verbal abuse. The tactic affords the abuser a sense of control that perpetuates the intoxicating assaults.

The sheer number of artists participating in the relatively confined space gives evidence of the overwhelming need for exhibition spaces to expand on these creative and engaging discussions. It is unfortunate that Tangent Gallery is coming to a close.

1.  Judith S. Schwartz, Confrontational ceramics: the artist as social critic, London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008, 142.
Group collaboration, String Theory, string,
wood, installation, dimensions variable,


Under the direction of Chris Daubert, a group of local artists collaborated on the installation String Theory, a series of colorful strings that altered the classroom hallway in the Education wing of the Crocker Art Museum. The installation demonstrated the exploratory character shared between art and science.

Winding through the walkway of gradient colors, the verticality of the strings and the shifting hues activated the moire effect that optically creates vibrations (bringing to mind the Penetrables by Jesús Rafael Soto). The installation makes use of space and movement of the participant to engage in the exploration of physics, the scientific branch concerned with properties of matter and energy. The debates on string theory (or theories) shows how scientists continue to develop interpretive concepts to explain the world, and artists similarly find new forms to view it. Both practices offer creative ways—within their specific languages—in which we can interact with our environment.

The group collaboration included: Brent Briggs, Kristen Bye, Chris Daubert, Raina Dittmer, Becky Herz, Nina Krebs, Jayne Muraki Rasmussen, Tom McElroy, Linda Nunes, and Susan Poirier.

Leslie Shows, Face K, ink, mylar, plexiglas,
acrylic, engraving on aluminum, and sulfur,

The exhibition Poking at Beehives at the Nelson Gallery features the work of Peter Edlund, Fred Tomaselli, and Leslie Shows that focuses on their distinct reflections on nature. Curated by the Director Renny Pritikin, Poking at Beehives alludes to how artists act as antagonists to address pressing issues.

The most abstract of the three and the most likened to an empirical study is the work of Leslie Shows, who analyses minerals and re-fabricates them by printing large images of microscopic views and recomposes them on aluminum sheets with other materials. The large sheets at first appear as the sophisticated abstractions and assemblages from the peak of modern art, however, Shows’ pairs these compositions with yellow sulfur blocks molded into everyday objects such as remote controllers and cell-phones. The human imprint upon nature is then magnified, attesting to our incompatible lifestyle with nature.

Peter Edlund, Place of Magpies and Squirrels,
oil on canvas, 2007
Peter Edlund paints highly finished landscapes in monotones of blue, a somber tone, to allude towards the destructive forces of human migrations and occupancy. By painting the “lost landscapes” that were once significant to the indigenous tribes wiped out by European settlement in America, Edlund’s socio-political imagery is not melancholic but immediately relevant. Edlund’s canvases note that not only is our understanding of ecological issues distorted and distanced by urban development, we continue to struggle with the socio-political impact of human migration.

Fred Tomaselli, Brain with Flowers, paper collage,
flowers, hemp, resin on wood, 1997
The most visually stimulating of the show can be attributed to Fred Tomaselli, who incorporates a variety of elements onto wooden panels encased in resin. He composes a spectacular arrangement made of both cutouts and real objects, including a variety of medicinal pills, all meticulously nestled between layers of resin. Tomaselli goes beyond the painted canvas and pushes it to sculptural dimensions. The technical execution is as riveting as the final image. In Brain with Flowers, Tomaselli constructs the form of a brain with a series of pills. He paints a network of radiating vines that appear as nerve endings that bloom colorful foliage—from real and fake flowers to alluring hemp leaves. Curator Pritikin talked about one of the premises behind the artist’s work: Tomaselli aims to capture visually the sensations that drugs induce. It is undeniable how art and science can stimulate curiosity to understand, and innovate ways to explain the vast complexities of our world.
Brain with Flowers, detail