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Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
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Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 31 July 2005

Back to School

There's a show you should see.  It's over in the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at MU.  Yes, you have to venture onto campus.  But not too far, since the Gallery is in the Fine Arts Building at Hitt and University.  You can do it.  And you should.

The show is 24/7:  Twenty-Four Hours/Seven Artworks.  It features works by six M.F.A. Candidates.  All the works were created for this show, and all were created in less than 24 hours.

Why is that important?  Well, it gives an immediacy to the works.  They were completed quickly.  That's not to say that they aren't well conceived, or executed.  But they have a certain raw energy which reflects the enthusiasm of a young artist in the midst of graduate study.

A collaborative work between Paula Kientzel and Amanda Salov greets you when you enter the gallery.  It consists of funny-shaped balloons hanging from the walls and piled on a small table.  The thing is, the balloons are filled with hardened plaster, challenging your expectations and forcing you to stop and think.  It's a good way to begin the show.

Eric Carlson has a large sculptural work on the floor just inside the gallery.  It's an oversized bear trap.  But it's made like a plush stuffed animal, all foam and soft fabrics in dark yet friendly colors.  It's the sort of thing that children would want to play with, and which would give their parents the heebie-jeebies.

The most traditional piece in the show is a painting by Nick Pena.  There, set in an idyllic landscape straight out of those 19th century paintings of the American West, is a slightly beat-up station wagon.  Yeah, the wood-paneled kind which was the family car of choice before minivans and SUVs.  On top of the station wagon is baggage.  Draw your own conclusions about what it means.

Eric Troolin has two pieces in the show.  One makes use of the prints of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a San Francisco artist who earned a considerable reputation during his brief career for democratizing art, involving the viewer, using simple materials to convey a depth of emotion.  One of his best known works was a stack of large prints, hundreds of copies of the same image (that of the surface of the sea).  People could take a copy of the image, thereby changing the artwork through participation.  Here, Troolin has placed a dozen of these images in a grid on the floor, then suspended simple photocopies of the stack of prints on fish hooks at the end of monofilament line about three feet above the prints.  The effect creates a tension between the components which were free to the public originally and the lure-like photocopies.

Similarly, his other piece "If And Only If" tempts the viewer to participate in the artwork, but leaves the real intent of the artist ambiguous.  The piece consists of the words of the title created by large nails driven into reams of paper.  Should you refrain from touching, as is usually the case in any museum or gallery?  Or are you supposed to take a sheet, and be part of the work?  Unlike Gonzalez-Torres' work, the removal of the paper will eventually mean the loss of the message.

Curtis Erlinger has created two works which play off of the notion of passing time.  One piece is an old-fashioned educational slide projector, altered so that the light passes through a test-tube containing a snakeskin and then a cone of old film, the light landing on the image of a child's face painted on the wall of the gallery.  When the show is over, the image of the child will be painted over.  This work can only exist in this moment of time, and so both in components and execution reflects the idea of temporal slices.

His other piece is more conventional.  It consists of two images of a bird, painted on what seems to be a huge sheet from a child's writing tablet.  One image was painstakingly painted in the lower right-hand corner of the paper, then partially rubbed away.  It is of a dead and decaying bird.  Soaring high above in the upper center is the same bird in flight, but executed as little more than a quick sketch as though it was gone too quickly to capture.

Likewise, this show moves fast, and you should catch it before it is gone.  The exhibit runs through August 12th.  A public reception will be held in the gallery on August 11th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  The George Caleb Bingham Gallery is open Mon-Fri 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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