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Review Archive

Art That Transcends Senses. Works Use a Variety of Ways to Heighten Feelings

By Roger Green

Ann Arbor News,Friday, March 10, 2006

Curator Adrian Hatfield wants to get a rise out of viewers - to excite them with art that transcends sense perception and normal life.


Today, with electronic stimuli pandemic, that's no mean feat. But it's realized fairly successfully in "Beauty, the Sublime and Intensity,'' a group exhibit of paintings, sculptures and installations at Gallery Project, through March 26.


Hatfield, a professor of art at Wayne State University and a contributor to the show, speaks in a statement about the "feeling(s) of terror and personal insignificance'' that accompany experiences such as viewing the Grand Canyon or witnessing violent storms. Works by the 24 artists Hatfield selected for the exhibit use a variety of strategies to elicit such heightened feeling.


Blindingly bright color and commanding scale count among those strategies. So do daunting, technical and formal complexity. Some works also address viewers' negative preconceptions in bids to stoke emotional response.


Such preconceptions explain the sculptures "Wurum'' by Kevin Ewing and "Spill 1'' and "2'' by Julie Dummermuth. "Wurum,'' a cylindrical tower, is covered with faux fur that seduces viewers with the promise of softness and warmth, but also repulses them with tackiness. The same ambiguity characterizes contiguous "Spill 1'' and "2,'' a silver puddle that, overspreading the gallery floor, is studded with Christmas ornaments, rhinestones and bells.


In her artist's statement, Dummermuth describes her attraction to "spectacles of holiday confection.'' But her sculptures' alluring spectacle is tawdry in the extreme.


Hatfield's untitled contribution is a big, mixed-media work that portrays undersea life by sandwiching painted and collage elements between layers of tinted resin. "My intention is ... to be overwhelming by presenting through extraordinary depth and detail more information than the viewer can process,'' Hatfield explains in his statement.


Exaggerated size also distinguishes an untitled, welded-steel sculpture by Enis Sefersah and Matt Blake, and an untitled painting by Bill Hafer. The floor-hugging sculpture, painted white, is a three-dimensional polygon whose prismatic parts might be mutating into something virulent and macabre. The outsize painting comprises vertical stripes in high-keyed, contrasting hues.


Complexity characterizes Evan Larson's sculpture "The Folding and Unfolding of Substance and Simulacra'' and Christopher Crowder's untitled ink drawing. The wall-mounted sculpture is a complicated system of metal pulleys and weights; its shadow presumably accounts for the "simulacra'' of the title.


Crowder's drawing, in the style of underground comics, is an arabesque of floating figures, bullets, tin soldiers and airplanes, their textured surfaces rendered in exacting detail. In fact, one of the figures appears to be metamorphosing into metallic elements - a circumstance that's echoed in the most polished and thought-provoking work on view.


Rollin Beamish's wall-hung installation "We Can Do It! We Have the Prosethes!'' combines oil paintings with foam board that's been cut into portrayals of body parts and abstract shapes. The artist's delicate draftsmanship is masterly, and the wall arrangement of paintings and cut-out elements - they're backlit in orange - suggests a maelstrom.

Figures, part corpulent body, part machine, reel through the installation. One fleshy figure has an airplane's wings and nose. Another's leg is a gigantic power drill. These are the protheses of the title, which the artist equates with material goods that fail to satisfy real, especially spiritual, human needs.

Says the artist in his statement, "...(T)hat unnamable completeness, the whole for which we strive, is symbolically fulfilled by the endless array of 'prostheses' that mass culture is more than willing to provide.''