Vicious Pink

Centraltrak, Dallas

Through January 20, 2009
by Walton Muyumba

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      Kirsten Macy
      A Girl Named Ham & the Sportsman Royal, 2008
      Mixed Media
      Courtesy Barry Whistler Gallery

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      Vicious Pink, the playfully ostentatious new show curated by Mary Benedicto at Dallas’s Centraltrak Artists Residency, might also have been called Viscose Pink because of its thematically thick, semi-fluid consistency.

      Val Curry’s amalgam of melted plastic and stuffed animals illustrates one constant throughout the show: the documentation of states of change or process. Curry’s vertical piece, learning (2008), greets viewers immediately upon entering the gallery space and evokes the fierce softness of the show’s title. The overall shape of learning references the heart muscle, the integrated, pink engine of human motion. Balancing atop a fat tree branch braced by steel pipes, plush animals ride Curry’s frazzled plastic forms, hanging between motion and stasis. The shifting mode of the piece suggests simultaneously the artist’s desire for integration, formally and materially, and an awareness of the effort and complexity inherent in and required by such integration.

      Two corollaries to learning are Kirsten Macy’s outdoor installation, A Girl Named Ham & the Sportsman Royal (2008) and LeeAnn Harrington’s video Falling Into the Night (2008). In the boldest, largest work in the show, Macy has painted the interior of a Sportsman Royal van pink and wired it for sound, broadcasting a female voice narrating Ham’s story. The eerily lit, abandoned vehicle, once Ham's home, with a beaten mattress jammed in the back cargo area and clothes, shoes, cups, eating utensils and leafy branches strewn about its insides, offers a record of a life vacated, its remnants decaying. In evocative contrast with Macy’s work, Harrington’s channels four video loops of a young woman’s falling and rising into the quadrants of a large LCD panel. Rather than noting a state of decline, Harrington’s static repetitions give rise to moments of caesura in the clips, when the body is between rest and motion, an acknowledgment of the body in process.

      While Curry, Macy and Harrington hesitate in a liminal zone, Jesse Meraz’s Ball in THA Hall (2008), a large, blinking ornament, composed of bubble-wrap, packing tape and construction paper and tagged with dime-sized blue lights, forces interaction between the piece and patrons. In order to venture down the long corridor of the residency, one must negotiate the pink ball, a vicious/viscose obstacle, rolling it from one side to the other, or up and down the hall to create passage. On opening night, this piece caused a circling stir of delight and confusion as folks wondered out loud whether they could touch it.

      Lanie Delay’s Network IV (214-824-9302) (2008) also invites viewers to participate in making the piece. Delay has arranged four pinkish/flesh-toned analog telephones at the compass points around a large circle of wrinkled telephone line. Connected to the residency’s communications circuits, the phones ring, their red lights flashing, when calls come through the main line. At the opening reception, patrons were encouraged to field calls, but many resisted, choosing instead to circle and stare as the phones clamored. Staring pensively, an index finger on his lips, a towheaded toddler finally picked up a receiver, spuring others to answer the bells as well.

      Benedicto’s smart, well-arranged show highlights brightly a range of talented Texas artists interrogating form, stasis and motion in various mediums. Thus one departs with the ironic sense of having both traveled and loitered, of having participated as both voyeur and tableau. Vicious Pink invites visitors to both appraise and swim within the stream of profuse contingencies between art making and art appreciation.

      Walton Muyumba is a writer, critic, and professor living in Dallas. In 2009, the University of Chicago Press will publish his book, The Shadow and the Act: Black Intellectuals, Jazz Improvisation, and Philosophical Pragmatism. Muyumba is working on essays about the relationship between contemporary American fiction and visual arts.

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