Phantom Limb, Figures in a State of Mind
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Scott Anderson, Wendell Gladstone, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Maja Ružnić, and May Wilson
What struck me most about this show are the hierarchies within each work. Each one portrays an isolated world and illustrates a system, an order within it. Are these systems established in the minds of the artists? Do the works act as a warning, a prediction of dystopian future? The colors are bright and cheery, but the imagery is not.
There are layers and details, rewards for examining surfaces closely, as seen in Wendell Gladstone’s two acrylic paintings. Perfectly executed paint edges, achieved by subtle masking, and then glazed with clear medium to form glossy patterns over top that conflict and highlight the main figures. There are hidden reliefs rising out of the background: bodies contorted, weighed down, and oppressed.
May Wilson’s In Wobbling, a shiny lipstick-red vinyl sculpture sits in the front courtyard. It is the first work you encounter, surrounded by a green hedge, tinted windows and cement. The sun is glistening as it does mid-day in Venice, and I’m imaging this sculpture slowly melting, dripping, oozing onto the patio. It stands bowing, a tripod figure leaning, appearing to sway. To me this was a peaceful quiet moment of looking, relishing in the rich colors viewed in sunlight. The work looks and feels like soft sculpture, no evidence of the industrial materials contained until you read the gallery sheet: “Vinyl, concrete, and strapping.” The structure is created by a forced relationship between all three legs. They were strapped together near the top, a position made permanent when the concrete inside hardened. Wilson has two other works inside the gallery space. A textured pale gold vinyl, sand, and strap piece hangs from the ceiling. The vinyl forms’ balance depends on the strapping, but are also stuck. The biggest of the three sculptures stands similar to the first, with a tripod support, atop of which is a woven bundle of industrial felt dyed a fleshy mauve pink. More strapping falls in between the legs, its ominous use is hidden from the viewer.
Several Mixed media works are included by Trenton Doyle Hancock. The two canvases have layers of hand cut canvas in a pattern reminiscent of chain-link and Moroccan tile. It seems to entangle the figures and other elements, collecting them like a fishing net. The small paper work has a course drawing style, articulating the pose of the main figure, which has situated himself on a throne made of someone half buried into the ground. The scene is a struggle. The suppressed body fighting back, reaching his arm to grab a leg much like those “Don’t give up!” posters with frogs and cranes.
Maja Ružnić uses the canvas as a cage, the figures swirling around inside a pool of color trying to leave the frame. Bright watery colors make up the underpainting, boxed in by darker, duller tones forming leaves and nuances of landscape. The figures are physically trapped by the paint forest.
The three works on canvas by Scott Anderson have an art deco sensibility to them with pointed geometrics and flattened outlined shapes. The scenes are of people framed by architecture, the use of which diminishes those figures to something of happenstance. The walls and columns are what will survive in the end.
“The term phantom limb describes the illusion of feeling a body part when the actual limb is missing, and the works in this exhibition speak to the felt presence of the body released from a representation of the figure.” But they were not released from the confines of the psyche.