Exploring the Ocean’s Edge in Long Beach at “AND/OR”
By Evan Senn
On view through December 11th
About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and the fine imaginary line between land and sea is a fascinating area. Being in Los Angeles, the coastline is a constant source of inspiration and beauty for Angelenos. A fragile place, the continental edge, ever-changing and moving with the ebb and flow of the tides pushes and pulls our imagination as well as our land. Jud Fine and Barbara McCarren are both perplexed and deeply attracted to the strength and vulnerability of the ocean—massively covering so much of our planet, but in great harm because of human destruction and pollution. Land and sea, respectively, seem to offer different people a sense of comfort, a sense of existence that is humble and expansive. This interesting dichotomy of land and sea is the inspirational thread that these two artists explore quite poetically in their latest exhibit of their collaborative artworks, in “AND/OR” at the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach.
With the real threat of global warming ever present in our human lives, those who live on the coast, or interact with it, have a heavier sense of its threatening and growing presence. “AND/OR” takes a poetic and personal approach to exploring the space between land and sea, and finds a playful, sometimes humorous, yet fascinating artistic experiment in thoughtful and purposeful creation.
Giant abstract metal and wood sculptures resembling sails of a boat examine the childlike relationship we have with the notion of how we see and understand sea crafts. Plastic, human-inspired, life-sized buoys stand tall and ominous as if portraits of people, resembling the dividing line between water and air. Over-sized crab claws leaning in corners recall the over-consumption of sea creatures. Whether they are small opalescent spheres or miniature planets—they stand eerily nearby, as relics of life, reminding us that everything has an end and the human interaction with other creatures, other bodies, and the planet can be beautiful and also destructive.
The exhibition is a curious exploration through these two artists’ minds, leading us down a rabbit hole of sorts, learning while falling in love with each new strange object. Such care has been taken in the objects. With a light heart, some seem like artifacts in a science center while others seem like strange toys created by a masterful stranger observing our planet from afar. Upon coming across the EarShells, one may think they’ve stumbled upon a new breed of shells or sea creatures. So purposeful, dozens of these EarShells sit silently, waiting; listening to the world around them, ready to inspire the listeners, the lookers, or devour the timid. Made in human-sized likeness, these are created conch shells that have a variety of human-like ear growth upon them. Much like the mouse-grown ears you can find in scientific laboratories, these EarShells remind us that while we press our own ears to sea shells to hear the ocean, what we are really hearing is ourselves (or the sounds these artist wish to reveal to us), as the ocean sound is coming from inside us. Other installations, projections, sculptures, and photography accompany these works in this exhibit, offering something fascinating for every kind of art lover.
“AND/OR” by MCCARREN/FINE is on view through December 11, 2016 at the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach.