Gallery Project exhibit examines what's "Faux Real"
by John Carlos Cantu
This backhanded endorsement might seem a bit bizarre. But this gallery thoroughly endorses the notion that artists “play with the idea that things can be both fake and real simultaneously in terms of concept and materiality.”
Fair enough. Granting this concept is self-fulfilling in more ways than one.
We are, after all, only one of a number of animals in our world that creates objects out of disparate materials. The difference, of course, is that we create often for the sheer joy of it. And this has a serious impact on what is “faux” and what is not.
This impulse to craft art for its own sake — while also casting a discerning eye on authenticity — is Gallery Project’s point of departure in this exhibit dedicated to art of the false.
“The lines between real and artificial grow increasingly blurred,” says the gallery’s exhibition statement, “even to the point that one wonders what, if anything is still ‘real’ in the 21st century. Every day we create a world of ‘artificial real’ through the construction of false narratives, personal identities, cultural artifices, and virtual worlds.”
All these constructions are on hand. And as is typical of this venue, the challenge is decidedly cerebral — with a dash of wit tossed in.
Contributors include Sam Blanchard, Sarah Buckius, Peter Bugg, Lea Bult, Susan Evans, Lynn Galbreath, Matt Gordon, Cynthia Greig, Adrian Hatfield, Nicole Jacquard, Darlene Kaczmarczyk, David Lambert, Lap Le, Jim Nawara, Abigail Anne Newbold, Alison Norlen, Gloria Pritschet, Ashley Allen Short, Clinton Snider, James Stephens, Jason Urban, Robin Walker, Allen Williams, and Hui Yang.
Gallery Project stalwart Sarah Buckius (a co-curator of the exhibit with Bult and Galbreath) has contributed a projection installation that defines the display. “Mowing, Mowing, Mowing….” continues her fascination with quirky, artful perpetual motion. A video animation loop in which a man cuts a lawn in repetitive kaleidoscopic patterns; “Mowing, Mowing, Mowing….” follows Buckius’ long-term interest in depicting a digitized model through a seemingly infinite array of animated mutations.
David Lambert’s “1/27/08” from his “Seasons” series of archival inkjet prints best exemplifies these artists’ conceptual wrestling with the exhibit’s theme. Lambert’s tableaus look like serene countryside, yet the forests are a bit too nuanced to not totally fool the eye—as are the channels formed by human manicuring and accompanying weather erosion. Lambert’s prints give us the best of landscape faux—with a subtle nudge accompanying his photographic wink.
“The Sherwood Forest” photography by Allen Williams, on the other hand, goes one faux step further. These fascinating digital photos of forest landscapes have been chromatically saturated so that each color in the background tantalizes its viewer with its suggestion of mystery. Verging on hallucinogenic, Williams’ “Sherwood Forest” teeters between visual fact and conceptual fiction.
Towards the side of fantasy, Hui Yang’s “The Dance of Love” video loop in the Gallery Project basement mischievously illustrates the courtship of two fantastic creatures fluttering in harmony through a shiny urban skyline. The animation’s playful music lulls the viewer while these two anthropomorphic creatures lightheartedly engage in a courtship that’s as much a fanciful daydream as it is an artistic romance.
Leave it to Buckius, however, to solidly drive home the exhibit’s darker undercurrent. Her “The Real You” installation in the farthest darkened basement corner of the gallery consists of five video cameras capturing five different palm-sized real-time views of its viewer as he or she views his or her ghostly reflection in the installation’s monitors.
Seen simultaneously from all sides in a dramatically grainy black and white, “The Real You” questions which of you is indeed the “real” you. For all or none — faux or not — identity takes on an entirely novel otherworldly dimension from more perspectives than one.
“Faux Real” continues through September 5 at Gallery Project, 215 South Fourth Avenue. Exhibit hours are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-997-7012.
John Carlos Cantú is a free-lance writer who reviews art for AnnArbor.com.