Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Behind the Curtain

"Minimalism in the mundane, elegance in the shattered, and light in the dark."
-Nathan Lee via the Whitney Museum of American Art

If you've come into the gallery lately, you might have wondered: "What's behind the black curtain?" or "Where are those strange noises coming from?" The answer to both is Gretchen Skogerson's video piece DRIVE THRU. Described by the artist as "a landscape of incomplete signs," the piece depicts storm-ravaged fluorescent signage in Miami in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
Betraying the striking similarities between this piece's underlying issues and those of Christina Seely's Lux, also currently on display at CCAS, Chris Stults of the Wexner Center for the Arts writes of DRIVE THRU, "What chance does light have against the darkness? The history of illumination is a story of miracles conjured to stave off the devouring night. As if at war with darkness, the modern metropolis has conquered the night and obliterated the sky." Yet the remnants of signs and streaks of fluorescent lighting in Skogerson's piece do not "obliterate" the black night surrounding them, but rather "engage in a dialogue" with the darkness.
Some of Skogerson's shots in the roughly twenty minute video are abstract light compositions--drawing comparisons to Dan Flavin--and some are more representational, incorporating passing cars and shadowy human figures. They all, however, point subtly to devastation, whether that of Miami post-Ivan or that of the earth via consumerism and energy usage. Writes Stults, "their form has become their content," and indeed, these sad, empty signs end up carrying deep meaning thanks to Skogerson's framing and her mix of ambient and recorded noises in the soundtrack. They also, surprisingly enough, become objects of beauty--"accidental works of art" barely noticed along the side of the road.
But Gretchen Skogerson noticed them, and now we invite you to notice them too. Come and see some or all of DRIVE THRU at CCAS, and then come hear Skogerson's lecture on February 10th at 7pm to learn more about this enigmatic piece.

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