Editor’s note: The title of one of the works referenced in this piece contains a transmisogynist slur.
Gallery 101 has a new exhibition entitled Universal Loss.
No clichés here. Instead, prepare to have “your mind infected.” This was the stated goal and measurement of success for curator Ulysses Castellanos.
What’s going to be popping up in your mind for days after you leave. What unlocking of emotion and memory are you going to experience?
Gallery 101 is quite small, but the depth in the art demands some time. So the coziness helps. You can do a lap around the exhibits in two minutes, but take the time to immerse yourself in each piece. This is when the questions begin to build.
Loss will emerge in surprising ways, using a variety of mediums and filtered through the artists’ own cultural and societal experiences. The curator went a step further and stripped the works of description. That move led to some personal discomfort.
I always experience this kind of viewing as a test. What if I get it wrong? What if I’m prattling on about some deep meaning only to find the artist just likes cats? How much responsibility does the artist have in delivering the message? I viewed the collection on opening day and the pressure was on. There was going to be a round table discussion later to see if I got anything right.
I needn’t have worried. The artists came through.
My eye was tuned by a simple photo of a couple holding hands by Michèle Pearson Clarke from her It’s Good To Be Needed series. I was uncomfortable with the lines. The couple’s core lines were diverging. The centerline of the piece was barren. They were stationed between a gap in the trees which allowed the grey sky to accent the discomfort below. The same play of lines occurred in her other photos. There was obviously more to this story than a simple snapshot. Tension and separation overwhelmed the prosaic bonding scene.
Jinyoung Kim’s photos and videos reminded me of our need for a talisman of belonging. Do you have something, or some ritual attached to your family home which connects you to your past and gives you a foundation of identity? I remember an old dinner knife, its silver plate now only a grey smudge on the carbon steel. I searched for it at every visit. It tied me to two generations and let me fantasize about connections even further back. What if it got tossed out? Kim’s “Objects On The Rooftop” confronted me with everyday objects, and posed questions of meaning, attachment, and ownership of our personal history.
Boris Castellanos did one of my favorite things. He brought a documentary excerpt from their Aging Ladyboys of Siam project. I’ve found that using a doc clip in an installation makes it more commanding than watching it on TV or computer. It becomes an active involvement in the lives of those portrayed. The interview in this show deals with the loss of just about everything but life. It left me wondering about resilience and questioning my own.
These artists, and the two other works from Agustina Comedi and Gretchen Sankey held up their end of the bargain. They delivered strong unexpected messages.
All I had to do was take the time, look, and reflect. Gallery 101 invites you to do the same.
Universal Loss runs from January 21- February 18, 2017 at Gallery 101.