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Back to Reviews 97


scratching the surface at
art in general

by Joan Kee  

Melissa Marks
Volitia and the Ballet Bombast: The Dying Swan

© ArtNet Worldwide 1997

Norma Markley
Model Home(detail)

Theresa Chong
The Art of Transforming(detail)

   This lively and eclectic show of work by eight young artists, organized by Art in General director Holly Block, is called "Scratching the Surface" -- but don't worry, it doesn't really have much to do with the picture plane. As a starting point, though, the works incorporate the actual gallery wall in a variety of ways.

Mindy Yan Miller punches almost invisible pinholes in the sheetrock to spell out in large block letters the vaguely subversive phrase, "I Killed Jesus." Lesley Raeside, in Fracture, attaches to the wall fragmented pieces of sewn and colored muslin shaped through inside-out tailor's darts to create a strangely physical abstraction. Norma Markley's Floor Plan is a sprawling blueprint-like wall drawing of what the artist calls an "ideal American home," dotted with colorful paint swatches stenciled with suggestive words and phrases meant as "clues of domestic lust." Kunie Sugiura's wall piece, a number of identical, starkly beautiful black and white photograms of roses -- some black on white, the others white on black -- are deployed in a symmetrical pattern that refers to popular binarisms like yin-yang, black-white, inside-outside, etc.

Among the more provocative works in the show is Melissa Marks' chaotic, exciting tornado-on-a-wall, otherwise known as Volitia, a cartoon-like character of graphic black lines and grey washes, here present in at least five simultaneous manifestations. In Ruth Liberman's piece called The Gathering of Evidence, dense bands of handwriting (produced with a dental tool and typewriter ribbon) that resemble slashing, black pencil marks are casually arrayed like pickup sticks scattered across an unrolling sheet of paper. Instead of conforming to the area mapped out by the paper, the marks tumble onto the gallery wall, contradicting the idea that a given surface must have boundaries that restrict content and idea.

For John Hatfield, whose work featured an inflated page of sheet music for the song Black Eyed Susie drawn directly on the wall with red fingerprints marking the notes, the goal is to probe the violent undertones of a seemingly innocuous Southern folk song. Perhaps most charming, however, are Theresa Chong's eight small drawings of cherubic figures drawn unobtrusively on the wall throughout the gallery space. Free of overwrought intention and painstaking deliberation, these figures illustrate The Art of Transforming, a series of short texts by Beon Kim that explain how to change yourself into a rock, for instance, or a door or a stream. It doesn't seem too hard: "How to become a tree. Train your body to make it well-muscled. Situate yourself on the ground in the mountain or in the field. Any place will do that is sunny and composed of earth....

"Scratching the Surface" at Art In General, April 25-June 28, 1997, 79 Walker Street, New York, NY 10013.