It’s as inevitable as Christmas. Each year, Dean Johnson Gallery puts together its Holiday One-Piece Show, a collection of single works of art by the gallery’s usual suspects and then some. Just as the pressure of Christmas starts bearing down, so does the — albeit, much smaller scale — pressure of the One-Piece. What can I say this year that I didn’t say the last? Wait, Reader … before you give up, hear me out. I have an idea. I will find the One Piece of all the One Pieces that stands out. Maybe you’ll write to NUVO and you can tell me whether or not you agree.
‘Pearls,’ by Crystal Holton part of ‘Longing for...’ at J. Martin Gallery
So … here it is. You’ve waited long enough. Pat Mack’s “Robot” (at a modest price tag of $27,000!) is, in addition to being stunningly complex with its endless joinings of welded parts, a dramatic departure for the artist who has been better known for his angels. In fact, if you’ve been south of 52nd Street on the Monon Trail, no doubt you’ve seen Mack’s best-known angel. Standing tall in Mack’s backyard in all its supplicant glory, she’s a beacon of hope, and one that’s sorely needed (and, I might add, entirely appropriate for this time of year). Mack’s work has been of the more angelic variety all-told; so I was quite taken aback when I saw his “Robot” — a spiritless monster, you might say — and further struck that it would seem the artist has looked his shadow in eye … and good for him. None of us are all heavenly light, or even its opposite (despite what the movies would have us believe) — and coming to terms with our potential nature is part of being human. This time of year, whether or not you celebrate Christmas in the religious sense, so much giving and receiving provides an opportunity for self-reflection, and to make peace with whatever unsavory aspects we’ve been toting around — like a spiritless robot, you might say. Thank you, Pat, for putting things into perspective. May we all return to the light — even if we must venture to the dark, if only to take a peek. Speaking of taking a peek, Crystal Horton’s solo exhibition at J. Martin Gallery, Longing for …, is also reflective of an artist’s willingness to look within. Horton’s images are consistent variations on a theme of “nude black woman looking disgruntled.” As Horton suggests in her artistic statement, looking at oneself is an exercise of shadow reckoning. None of us are what (or who) we appear to be, unless we’ve done some looking in and dredging up. Horton acknowledges the discomfort of this — evidenced by the disgruntled, defiant gaze, one eye slivered, the other wide and penetrating — but at the same time, it’s as if she’s also saying, “This is my job, not yours. So back off.” Indeed, who wants others to look at these places, especially if we’re not willing to go there ourselves? I wish you all a happy looking in, and may you come away with a more solid sense of self. And by the way, merry Christmas, too … or happy holidays if you prefer. Holiday One-Piece Show is on view through Jan. 8 at Dean Johnson Gallery, 646 Massachusetts Ave., 634-8020, ext. 21, www.deanjohnson.com. More than 40 artists plus more modestly-priced gift items are available for your holiday shopping pleasure. Crystal Horton: Longing for … is on view through Jan. 10 at J. Martin Gallery, 874 Virginia Ave., 916-2874, www.jmartingallery.com.