Assembling Meanings and Materials in Proximity
Wilding Cran Gallery
through July 31
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
A successful group show is like an anthology of short stories, introducing work that whets our appetites for familiar or newly discovered authors while broadening our understanding of a specific place, time or theme. Proximity, at Wilding Cran Gallery, does just that. The conceptual and material potential of collage is imaginatively explored and expanded by eighteen artists, and the viewer will be rewarded with discoveries and connections gleaned from this carefully assembled collection of sculptures, photographs, textiles and paintings.
Co-curated with Lindsay Preston Zappas, Proximity makes clear that collage is not just a process, but a way of seeing and interpreting. The manner in which these artists place objects and imagery together is a particular way of making sense of the world. They seek meaning through juxtapositions and odd alliances, and ultimately combining disparate ideas and materials deliver more than any single element could communicate alone. The curators also describe the show as a “coming together” and so it is worth considering the process of collage as a metaphor for rejoining and inclusivity in the wake of the isolation we have experienced over the past year.
Thankfully, the two and three-dimensional artworks in Proximity do not simply illustrate an idea. Though each artist meets the criteria for the show, the works are self-sufficient and richly rewarding in their own right. Fran Siegel’s “Medicine Wheel”, is a loosely constructed mandala suspended from a rod against the wall and tethered to the ground. Made from fabric imbued with cyanotypes that are largely textural, the blue and white segments are the backdrops for her hand-stitched botanical specimens. Medicine wheels are Native American constructs that aid healing and so we can assume that Siegel’s wheel is meant to nurture via the healing power of plants. She treats the organic in a similar way to her past architectural landscape drawings, building up layers of imagery that bounce between abstraction and representation, but “Medicine Wheel” adds a layer of humanitarian purpose and practicality that resonates now.
Yevgeniya Baras has two untitled mixed media works that show off her deft handling of texture, color and materials. Somewhat evocative of the gritty richness found in some cubist paintings, Baras creates her own idiosyncratic mandate for what works together in a wholly abstract manner. Yarn and sticks are used for their linear qualities, while small pebbles and painted dots bring color and balance into areas defined by the lines. Like the best folk art, the paintings never apologize for their awkwardness, in fact it is part of their strength. Baras’ real skill is in creating a logic out of her raw materials, an alchemical act that is inexplicable but leads to beautiful, mysterious worlds.
Elliott Hundley’s “Nocturne” is an ambitious amalgam of paper, oil, fabric, encaustic, pins, plastic and foam. Almost lost in the shadows, collaged figures are surrounded by dense passages of frenetic marks that capture a manic intensity. Hundley covers his surface with dimensional squiggles that swarm like bees and the painting teeters between a sense of disintegration and an unknown biomorphic process.
Another artist that deals with the opposing forces of order and chaos is Evan Whale. Using a more graphic approach than Hundley, Whale manipulates a photograph to create a mesmerizing optical abstraction by carving into the emulsion of a C-print. “In My Room (Peacock Polkadot)” contrasts topographical contour lines against the static flatness of a grid of multicolored dots. Rather than trying to make sense of the imagery, like squinting at 3-D illusions, allow yourself to succumb to the visual delight.
Other works in Proximity stand out, including a weaving by Lindsay Preston Zappas, a floor sculpture by Jenny Rask, and Vikky Alexander’s vinyl print affixed to the gallery wall, but all contribute to the show by stretching our definition of collage. Collectively the show is an appreciation of the medium, not only as a creative endeavor, but also as an intellectual exercise to navigate our current pandemic mindset. After all, understanding and accepting multiple, often opposing ideas, can be a great survival tactic.
Artists: Marwa Abdul-Rahman, Vikky Alexander, Yevgeniya Baras, Louis Cameron, Justin Chance, Chris Cran, Todd Gray, Elliott Hundley, February James, Heather McGill, Jason McLean, Paul Pescador, Jenny Rask, Paul Salveson, Fran Siegel, Evan Whale, Lindsay Preston Zappas, and John Zane Zappas.
Wilding Cran Gallery
1700 S. Santa Fe Ave, Unit 460, Los Angeles, 90021