Dawn Ertl, Sarajo Frieden and Michelle Carla Handel in “Taking Up Space” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

Photo Credit: Stacy Wendt
Photo Credit: Stacy Wendt

Taking Up Space – with Meaning

through January 28
Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Los Angeles

By Genie Davis
“Taking Up Space”, at Tiger Strikes Asteroid through the 28th, is a beautiful exhibition that fills those taken spaces with both visual and emotional meaning. Curated by TSA member Stacy Wendt, the exhibition features work by Los Angeles-based artists Dawn Ertl, Sarajo Frieden and Michelle Carla Handel.

If the idea here is to claim, mark, and “activate” space with abstract works, then it is certainly successful on that level, with each artist employing unique ways to present their dimensional works. Wendt says the show offers viewers “ways of understanding the world through our relationships with objects and how we perceive them.”
But the show does more than that, shaping a fascinating grouping that is both tactile and ethereal; a dream-like exhibition that engages the viewer to an extent that makes visiting the space an emotionally interactive experience.

Dawn Ertl’s light, airy woven-cloth works have no discernible pattern when examined closely, but from a distance, these are delicate tapestries. Ertl is weaving works that represent her reaction to relationships and the natural environment; they are entirely personal yet approachable, spun like gossamer or colorful spider webs.

Ertl says of her work that, “The viewer is able to step back and see the bigger picture. The view changes depending on where you move, where you look, what you are aware of, and what you see.” Indeed, her pieces here seem mutable, shifting with light and shadow, with a gust of air or the brushing-past of another viewer. They move like emotional flags, softly wavering.

In contrast, Sarajo Frieden’s works are considerably firmer, more grounded, and layered. Using symbols and signifying shapes, she creates a world that stretches out from two dimensional confinement, as if her works were growing and expanding before the viewer’s eyes. In some ways reminiscent of the cutout works of Matisse – though less defined, and more abstract – Frieden uses vibrant colors and a collage of shapes that speak of her background in illustration. From her palette to the shapes she chooses, her work has a joyful feeling, and is filled with both motion and light. Her work here is looser than in other recent exhibitions, reminding the viewer of jazz riffs of color. Frieden says she is influenced and inspired by travels to Australia, Asia, and North Africa, as well as by her own proximity to the Pacific Rim, and certainly her works seem to contain a kind of symbolic visual language that crosses cultures and boundaries even as it absorbs them.

Michele Carla Handel’s work is the most physically defined of the three artists. Her 3-D wall pieces are weighted and beautiful, filling space with a completely commanding presence. Works such as “Cloudbusting,” which combines mixed media with digital prints are both excitingly dimensional and filled with gravitas. Her works exude the spirit of a traditional sculptural figure rendered into something far more modern and enigmatic, pieces of a puzzle, shapes that ask viewers to assemble them with the meaning.

Overall, each of these three artists, while creating in mixed media, offer a range of palettes, mediums, and styles moving from tapestry to collage to sculpture in approach and dimensionality. And all three are terrific.

Taking Up Space is open through Sunday, but the closing reception will be Saturday from 7 to 10 pm.

Tiger Strikes Asteroid
The Bendix Building
1206 Maple Avenue, 5th floor, #523, Los Angeles

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