Wall Space Gallery owner Crista Dix continues to confound expectations of what a gallery of photography can mean in this latest show, “Object.” The gallery has only been in the Funk Zone for a short time, but it has been tweaking minds since it opened. “Object” may be the most tactile of the shows so far.
The three artists are all women: Sue Van Horsen, Heidi Kirkpatrick, Yvette Meltzer. All use photography as a tool, and explore its chemical uses. One makes you rethink surfaces, one mashes a 2-D art form into 3-D sculpture, and the other plays with the concept of abstract art.
Ms. Meltzer takes up a wall at the back of the gallery with her laundromat series. Here, the photographer focuses her camera on the windows of laundromat dryers, large industrial portholes in a way, and shows the materials within. But she shoots at a slow shutter speed, rendering these falling fabrics in smears and blurs. The square canvases look like paintings, caught between photorealism and abstraction. A seam in the metal dryer’s wall gives the shot a space-age touch. It seems very simple until one tries to reverse-engineer it all. The gaze is both institutional and working class. (If you have a home dryer, can you look in and get hypnotized? I can’t). Arranged in a grid, the series is both poignant and alienating.
Ms. Van Horsen only recently had her first solo show at Elsie’s, and her machines of loving grace had many visitors at the opening last week scratching their heads. Surely this isn’t photography? But Ms. Van Horsen’s art comes out of engraving and photography, and now she makes these genre-limbo objects. She will combine an old piece of machinery — an oscillator, a sandwich maker — a magnifying glass, and a photograph (or illustration). In “Watching the TV,” we look out at a glassy eyed older couple, as if we are the television. In “The Clown Looks Grim,” the subject indeed is a clown (and a grim one at that). The revelations may not be astounding, but the process is. These apparatuses suggest a last-ditch effort to make something work in a digital century, to go back to a penny arcade of optics and hands-on mechanisms, but somewhere along the way the instruction booklet was lost. Do these objects “work”? Not as such.
However, her handmade cigar box and guitars do — especially on Friday night when these amplified guitars were played through an amp. Some mimic the shape of a banjo; others are all neck and no body. Their previous incarnations are visible but inscrutable: a quart tin of poison, an Asian box for who knows what, a container of shoe polish. Harry Partch would be proud.
Finally, Ms. Kirkpatrick produced the most varied work. This is photography unfettered by the flat dimensions of paper. By coating objects with photosensitive chemicals, Ms. Kirkpatrick brings her monochromatic images to all sorts of objects that one wants to reach out and touch: heavy glass paperweights that feel comforting like bars of soap, long boxes with disembodied limbs on the side, white orbs with depictions half-naked women (or mannequins?). By far, everybody’s favorite was the mah jongg set, each yellowing tile imprinted with an enigmatic tiny photo. Presented in a small repurposed cigar box, this set was a wonder and a delight.
“Object” is cheeky and fun and a delight. It’s what the Funk Zone is all about. Recommended.
Where: Wall Space Gallery, 116 E. Yanonali St
When: Through March 24. Closed Mondays.
Information: 637-3898 or www.wall-spacegallery.com