Review: 'Transcendence' at Gallery 924 

click to enlarge Mike Graves' "Lotus Blossoms"
  • Mike Graves' "Lotus Blossoms"

3.5 stars

Gallery 924 at the Arts Council; through Aug. 30.

There's a great variety of work, in just about every conceivable medium, on view by the 28 exhibited artists here. Certainly any show that has both institution-friendly sculpture (Pat Mack's "Transcendent") and hip mixed-media collage (Mike Graves' "Lotus Blossoms") fits my definition of eclectic. Yet both these works reflect the theme that curator D. DelReverda-Jennings organized the show around. Graves' "Lotus Blossoms" focuses its attention on the centers of spiritual power in the human body--chakras--and explains this concept somewhat in the paragraph of English text included in the surface of this composition. There are also pages of text in Hebrew and various other oriental languages collaged into the surface as well. And then there's a painted chakra in the guise of a "whirling wheel of fire" against an abstract background marked by various hues of blue and paint drips. Nothing wrong with showing that yearning for transcendence is a universal thing. Although there is danger for an artist, I think, in locking in a particular meaning so tightly that a certain sense of mystery is lost.

Certainly there's no mystery in the meaning of Mack's "Transcendent," a table-lamp sized bronze sculpture showing two human figures rising up out of what look like a swirling firestorm. By virtue of the title you know something of the theme of the work, but that won't necessarily prevent you from being inspired by it. But one of my favorite works in this exhibition, Walter Johnson's "Stealing Principles, Destroying Souls," deals not with inspiration per se, but with the exploitation of peoples in the name of religion. It's an oil on canvas painting where you see nude female figures in clothed proximity to robed church figures. One of the women has a snake wrapped around her body. The simplified figurative imagery of the painting seems to ironically evokes the sort of pre-Renaissance paintings commissioned by the Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages ostensibly to save souls, not to destroy them.

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