Janie Geiser and Laura Heit at Track 16

Laura Heit, Too Many Days at Track 16 Gallery. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Janie Geiser, Parallel Storms and Laura Heit, Too Many Days

Track 16 Gallery
Through May 19, 2018


By Lorraine Heitzman

Projections, films, prints and mechanized puppets have transformed Track 16’s three rooms into a ghostly theatrical space with a curious ambience. Partly mysterious and wholly inventive, Laura Heit’s Too Many Days and Janie Geiser’s Parallel Storms are well-matched shows that highlight the breadth of possibilities within the scope of time-based arts.

Heit, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, teaches at the Pacific Northwest College of Art after co-directing the experimental animation program at CalArts. Her animated installation, Two Ways Down, fills the gallery room with cast shadows as high intensity light is projected onto paper and glass models. The tableaux, arranged on several rotating turntables in the center of the space, consist of small and delicate objects, but once the light hits them the shadows transform into distorted silhouettes, taking on a monumental life of their own. On three of the walls the projections create fantastical, somewhat futuristic, landscapes. On the fourth wall a video with hand-drawn characters, like hieroglyphics from an unknown language, dances across the room onto unsuspecting viewers. The work conjures the chaotic, disorienting moments after a natural disaster, recalling the tornado scenes in The Wizard of Oz. Heit’s methods and craft are effective tools for her dark imagination, but the pleasure of her installation is in no small way a direct response to the simple magic of animation and shadow play. With childlike curiosity, the viewer becomes entranced and watches Two Ways Down while inadvertently becoming a participant in the surrounding narrative.

Janie Geiser is perhaps best known for her unique puppet shows but her lengthy resume includes not only puppetry, but also films and performances. In Parallel Storms, her focus is more on her newer video works, although some digital prints and sculptures are included here too. As you enter Track 16, you immediately encounter Look and Learn Part 2, a three channel video projection. Three monitors, side by side, screen different images that take on meaning from their association together. Geiser manipulates found images from children’s school yearbooks and textbooks with filters, framing devices, and color saturations into a frenetic visual experience, very different from the quieter, slower pace that distinguished some of her earlier puppet shows. Also in the front room, projected high on the wall, is Look and Learn Part 5, is a single channel video that features a clown-like shadow puppet, bathed in red, involved in what may be a murderous scene; the innocence of the silhouette belies the menacing action.

Most entrancing however, is Geiser’s sculpture, Falling Figures, two articulated mannequins on separate pedestals. Each 3D printed wood filament figure stands alone, unadorned, and reminiscent of antique, wooden penny dolls. Their simplicity is poignant, and their crude construction adds to the pervading sense of fragility and vulnerability. Surprisingly, in contrast to their simplicity, Geiser has motorized the figures, so they lurch and kneel or make seemingly random movements, independent of each other. Heightened by their solitude, the figures’ predicament is quite powerful and their limited movements solicit sympathy.

Track16 has staged a fascinating pair of shows that expands our appreciation for video projections, puppetry and animation. Both Janie Geiser and Laura Heit orchestrate their environments with assurance as they try and bring understanding to mysterious, psychological states and cataclysmic events using the medium of light. These two former colleagues and like-minded artists approach their art quite differently but Parallel Storms and Too Many Days benefit from their proximity to each other. Both shows continue through May 19.

Track 16 Gallery
now in the Bendix Building
1206 Maple Ave, #1005
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Hours: Wed-Sat 12-6pm


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