Holey Sheet

Posted November 5, 2009 in Arts & Culture

“Cut: Makings of Removal” at Chaffey College’s Wignall Museum first opened at East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Museum just over one year ago. Traditionally associated with the crafts, cutting paper is the focus of this show, and the 15 artists whose work is represented all practice some form of cutting and removing that obscures the distinction between art and craft. The individual works also defy the ways we tend to categorize work and exist in the spaces between painting, drawing, sculpture and installation.


Four sins—Pride, Lust, Greed, and Envy—unfold in the paper constructions of David Adey. His work, which recalibrates celebrity obsession in terms of religious iconography, transforms mundane celebrity photos from the covers of People Magazine into disconcertingly eerie portraits. In a sense, Adey dismembers his subjects, cutting the photos into shaped pieces with craft punches. Excised of eyes and teeth, the re-assembled images are affixed to foam with brass pins. The absence of eyes, which animate the face and evoke empathy, makes it all too easy to idealize—or vilify. Taking his titles from the covers of the magazine, Adey turns an eye toward human folly. Britney’s Mental Illness presumes a currency with celebrity culture and ironically trades on the very compulsion it uncovers. Sexy and Single presents the wet and sundrenched muscular torso of an unnamed male celeb as an object of desire to be consumed. 


The religious imagery in Dinh Q Le’s Temptation of Saint Anthony appears a bit more ambiguous. In this photomontage triptych, Le interweaves images of an anonymous suffering man with Hieronymus Bosch’s Temptation of Saint Anthony. In the center panel of Le’s work an image emerges of a man, arms stretched out, as if on a cross. The side panels present the same man, in a pose with hands together above his head—as if bound for flogging. Bosch’s painting has been interpreted in various ways over the centuries—from truly held belief to mere grotesquerie meant to titillate. It is similarly hard to tell what Le’s attitude is to the emulation of Christ depicted in his triptych. The images of suffering lack the punch of Bosch’s imagination, and they are clean—no gore. However, they seem to have a symbolic meditative aspect.


Deb Whistler’s Last Breath does not borrow from a traditional paper craft. Whistler is trained in woodcut printing, and her large-scale, hand-cut paper “line drawing” (for lack of a better term) looks like the work of an experienced printer/carver. This relief drawing, cut from white paper, lies on the floor, covered with a thick piece of Plexiglas. The contrast of the paper against the earth-colored concrete floor enhances the sense of relief, and the intricate, contoured line work guides our perception of this flat piece of paper as a volumetric shape. It expands and contracts; the spaces between lines swelling and shrinking—perhaps like the expansion and contraction of our lungs. The work is large, approximately 8-feet-by-2-feet, which is voluminous for anyone’s last breath. 


Adam Fowler’s untitled graphite and cut paper pieces straddle the divide between Zen exercise and obsession. Fowler’s work is remarkably consistent; his pieces are serene, contemplative, sensuous handmade objects. Fowler hand-cuts his fine line drawing, excising the paper between his graphite marks. There is a pin point accuracy and exactitude required for cutting paper into intersecting loops just millimeters thick without breakage. 


Chris Natrop’s installation, Dewdrop Redux, creates a mesmerizing experience. Paper and acrylic, cut into sensuously shaped drips and curves, hang gracefully from the ceiling. Video projections of delicate water drops running horizontally across a sheet of glass provide a mysterious pattern of shadows racing or snail-pacing along the wall in both directions. The sensation of time passing with the motion of dew drops, as well as the notion of dew drops that evaporate as the day heats up turn this installation into a meditation.


“Cut: Makings of Removal” at the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Chaffey College, 5885 Haven Ave., Rancho Cucamonga; www.chaffey.edu/wignall. Mon-Thurs, 10AM-4PM, Sat, noon-4 PM. Thru Nov. 21. Free.


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