Rapture in Rupture
Through January 11, 2009
by Kate Watson
“The world is mixed up—should it surprise us that the art of our times would be mixed up too?”*
What will we say about this cultural and political moment ten years from now? Each morning we hit snooze on our clock radios, dreamily welcoming the day as the latest news stories quietly ring in our ears, breaking the latest bank collapses and terrifying numbers to us as gently as possible. Corporations fail, markets crash and perhaps our gulf neighbors will never rebuild again after the devastation of another fall hurricane. Yet the gentle word “Obama” continues to shimmer in our minds and somehow all is not yet lost.
During the greatest and darkest cultural moments, we close our eyes and tell ourselves to remember—remember where we were when we “heard the news” so that one day we might tell our children. But how else do we make it through these heady and uncertain days? Specifically, how do artists remember and catalog difficult times and how do they contribute to an historical snapshot of an era? Rapture in Rupture, featuring Lauren Kelley, Shiri Mordechay, Mindy Shapero and Nicolau Vergueiro, offers one solution to this question—don’t try to find answers, just continue to make, explore and question. These four emerging artists explore one genre of current production— “…a resurgent strain of art making defined by a rather ramshackle aesthetic along with a deliberate, even defiant openness and resistance to easily digestible meaning.”
When times get tough, artists get messy and bold. Galleries crumble, art fairs bleed, collectors buy safety and the youngest in the economy suffer most. An artist’s securest approach is to work small and two-dimensionally, to think “collectible.” The artists currently featured at Arthouse offer the opposite. They work with courageously huge “canvases” and make tender, bold images from materials seemingly found lying around the home and the studio—Nicolau Vergueiro trumps all with his wild list, which includes latex, wool, velvet, silk, ink, copper, Magic-Sculpt and cheesecloth.
Shiri Mordechay, who was born in Israel and raised in Nigeria, has a much shorter list of materials—chiefly cutout paper collage, delicately bound with hair and string—but renders gorgeous images with the hand of a master. Violent palettes explode with human and bestial corporeal landscapes; the most glorious moments in Mordechay’s massive paper installations occur when the images literally leap off of the page. Three-dimensional cutout apes swing drunkenly in space; landscapes completely fall away, leaving a cascade of images dangling and animated.
Houston-based Core fellow Lauren Kelley emerges as the brightest star in this mesmerizing exhibition with Wild Seed, a brand new minute and a half stop-motion animation. This video marks a new direction in Kelley’s work. Although she continues to construct playful yet elaborate dioramas for her surreal melodramas, this piece is tinged with a much greater solemnity than previous work. Kelley has abandoned her Barbie dolls in favor of tiny, topiary animals. Apocalyptic chaos descends on this peaceful environment and the characters are left powerless in the eye of the storm. At the climax of the piece, a viscous slime descends on the pristine, orderly world turned upside down.
For a video that spans less than two minutes, Kelley is doing some heavy lifting. Made after surviving the difficult period of time in Houston after Hurricane Ike, Wild Seed is a meditation on control, on humanity against nature. Maps of projected flooding due to global warming rang quietly in my head as I watched the piece—Houston will most certainly be lost in our battle against rising sea levels. Our deeply human desire to create complicated, organized landscapes (whether they be topiaries or skylines) will most certainly fail. Earth will prevail.
Mordechay and Kelley beautifully exemplify the mission of Rapture in Rupture—make now and ask questions later. Devour inspirational material; work big and work messy. The “whys” of this vulnerable historical moment have not yet come into focus, but the visual results of these hyperactive and courageous explorations are one luscious delirium after another.
*All quotes taken from Elizabeth Dunbar, “Rapture in Rupture” (Arthouse exhibition brochure, 2008)
Kate Watson is Coordinator of testsite and an assistant editor at ...might be good.