Reviews of SRO

Rebecca Aidlin with "City Garden"

Rebecca Aidlin with "City Garden"

Lawrence Swan with "Tree of Life"

Lawrence Swan with "Tree of Life"

REVIEW OF “SENSORIAL OBJECTS” AT SRO

One theme that links Rebecca Aidlin's work with that of Lawrence Swan in the show at SRO is the interest in masks. A mask of course covers up the face and one can think of many reasons why the face needs this shield from the world. Humans are weak vulnerable creatures and masks can present a formidable front. Often they look angry or fearsome, forbidding or simply expressionless. They suggest that something is going on behind them that may be more wish than reality that needs defense. One of the original things about Rebecca Aidlin's masks is they seem to invite the viewer in rather than present a closed gate. They are created through a laborious embroidery process, and she tells how she did much of the work on the subway going to work. This got her the interest of fellow passengers who wondered what she was up to. The discussions that followed humanized the subway journey as people understood and expressed opinions about what she was doing. Even in the creation, the masks brought people together and, according to Aidlin, made them calm. The masks hang from the wall on wires and with the most recent mask the wire spreads out creating a wild activity around the mask. It seemed to me that the wires which before were securely behind, though visible, had responded to the mask by revealing what was going on behind. The mask leads one into the brain, and the brain's synapses are firing away happily.

This process of moving easily from the outside into the interior happens in a different way with the canvas works. “Thoughts for a Letter” takes us right into someone's mind who is composing a letter. In the most formed chamber are the repeated words “Dear Lucian.” Other chambers descend from the first showing where more of the letter will appear, and then there are the outlines of chambers that are just an empty white. The canvas is a marvelous depiction of the process of composition, showing how it creates something out of nothing, preparing the ground and then making it vivid and beautiful. The other canvas, “City Garden,” works somewhat in the same way. Again we have moved into an interior outlined in blue. Again there are dividing lines and within them is a mental image of the garden in which parts are labeled. The picture is utterly charming and completely unguarded showing the mind's use of space and language to create a mental map of the garden. Again we are mid-process, like Degas showing dancers getting ready to dance rather than dancing, or women getting dressed rather than fully dressed

Lawrence Swan uses masks in the more traditional way as defense. His masks exclude us from what is behind them, but then, at the same time, they are suggestive. “Stitched Mask, Painted” is largely expressionless, but the fact that it is stitched indicates the difficult effort of putting it together and also the necessity. It is an improvised and obviously imperfect effort. If asked, I would say what it covers is pain, pain that would be too horrible to express directly. It is a bit like Greek tragedy (that also used masks) that puts the most horrible and unbearable things off stage. In one way or another I would say the same is true for the other masks and also the draped figures. Each is its own depiction of something that must be covered up, and yet the covering up is powerful in the suggestion of what is not seen.

There is however a counter to the masks and draped figures; expressed in the most simple way, it is the circle. There is “Easter Basket” a circular piece made of wire from Time Warner, which used to supply Lawrence with cable service. Easter is of course when Jesus rose from the dead, showing that residing in the secular is divinity, and in his basket does seem to be an image of man become divine offering all of us salvation. Creating this piece from mundane re-purposed cable is another example of process becoming integral to the work of art. There are other circles shown in “Small Canvas 1” and “Small Canvas 2,” which Swan told me were created with Mandalas in mind, symbols of the universe in balance and harmony. The most impressive of the circular works is “Tree of Life” which Swan created for someone else, to be used in a video. However, when the pieces came back to him, he stitched them together and made them continuous into a marvelous image of interlocking circles. The canvas has the same signs of effort as the masks and draped figures, some of the stitching is rough and one can see through the panels in places. On the other hand it is an image of harmony; the circles do fit together and radiate something powerful. The image is both carefully balanced and filled with energy. It is in more than one sense a triumph.

“Sensorial Objects” will be on display until until December 23 at SRO located at 1144 Dean Street. They are open Saturdays and Sundays, 1-6pm and by appointment.


Kathy Goodell in front of her picture

Kathy Goodell in front of her picture

Don Doe standing with sculpture "Study for Brother"

Don Doe standing with sculpture "Study for Brother"

NOVEMBER OPENING AT SRO

On November 16 a small show opened at SRO called Menage/rie Unfolded curated by Andrew Woolbright who also had two pieces of his own out of the eight put on display. The accompanying sheet on the show composed by Andrew starts out, “Human beings have delineated the space and boundaries of our bodies through a collective fascination with monsters for as long as we've shared language.” A whole bunch of monsters occurred to me at once in various languages, the Cyclops in The Odyssey, various devils in The Divine Comedy, Kafka's transformed Gregor Samsa, frightening depictions of threatening brutishness, the human form distorted by evil, the danger of a hidden insect nature taking over from the human. Yet, in this show most of the monsters seemed funny. Julia Gutman's “Footstool” seemed a touching sculpture of a footstool that is tired of being a servant and aspires to be hominoid. It has grown tall, over three feet, and seems to be developing a face. Calli Moore's Queen Conch seems to be a shell that also has aspirations, certainly to be royal, but also to have many of the aspects of a unicorn owned by a young girl. The coloring and soft horns would make her happy in an eight-year-old's feminine room. Casey Jex Jones, Looking Twice, seems to represent an encounter between two sets of monsters. A Peeping Tom, somewhat lizard like, has come to the edge of a jungle and is looking at two mermaids who seem to be in a pool in a desert setting. The incongruities made this viewer laugh out loud. Daniel Giordano did Study for Brother, a charming Frankenstein with a jaunty pose made of an amazing collection of materials including glitter, Orange Tang, Nesquik Strawberry powder, 23 carat red gold. Don Doe, one of the gallery's owners, stood next to it and the resulting photograph seemed to me one of two friends, perhaps even cousins. How Kathy Goodell's Visitors Lost made it in the show is not immediately clear to me. She can be seen posing by her work, which she said could be thought of as a map seen from above or a landscape. I do see how one could get lost in it either way, but have yet to see its monstrous aspect, maybe there is one lurking in the dark section. Alas this show will be over by November 21, but if SRO keeps putting on shows with a similar interest, one would be wise to get on their mailing list and become a regular visitor.

Jonathan Judge