The Final Countdown?

By Stacy Davies

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Posted June 16, 2011 in Arts & Culture

Just this week, I wrote an art review about the wave of environmentally-themed exhibits I’ve seen crop up recently. In most of it, I opined that we humans seem to be accepting the fact that we’ve completely screwed up the planet, and we are now collectively awaiting some very bad mojo to arrive in the form of nature attacks and incurable diseases derived from our carelessly discarded pollutants. There’s not much we can do at this point, since we didn’t listen to Al Gore or Jimmy Carter or hey, even NIXON. So suck it up, brethren, it’s going to get very nasty, very soon.

The upshot is that we’re not depressed or whining about it much, and instead, visionary artists and curators have begun to compile what might be termed “temporary time capsules” of what we’re thinking at this moment and what we see around us—both through a critical and a hopeful eye—before we enter what I like to call “the liberal’s Rapture.” (If the last redwood is cut down to make a tract home and there are no treehuggers around to cry over it, does it still make a funereal snapping sound?)

The dA Center for the Arts current show, “A Sense of Place, a Sense of Space: architectural and landscape inspired art,” curated by Marci Swett, fits snuggly into this philosophical, “it’s not over until the last rainforest is scorched” scenario, and takes a pointed look at our man-made and Earth-made habitats—the good, the bad, and even the optimistic.

Preston Daniels kicks things off with molten-y, charred end pieces, Two Lions, that look much like a couple of planned community homes excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits (in that case, leave them, please). They could also represent visions of future “trendy” abodes of cooling lava casas, which really would be swanky to come home to after a long day of hauling corpses off the freeway.

Likewise, his series of metal sculptures of dwellings in disrepair, Architecture’s Sentence, can be seen as a pointed remark on the scraps we leave behind and the reclamation of such structures that we have to look forward to, and his large-scale Double Take screams clumpy, goopy tribute to Cleopatra’s Needle, but in our own less-stylized, post-Armageddon, modern way. Brian Jones’ awesome steel cable installation also proves that what might be an eyesore from your backyard patio can be exceptionally cool when placed inside your living room.

If you’d prefer to walk into the light, Carol Ann, you certainly can with Jessica Byer’s three abstract paintings of warm and inviting room interiors. Soft forms and lines eschew the mandated coldness that usually comes with Modern, and in these rooms there is daybreak, comfort and serenity. Nightmare scenarios can also be vanquished by Claire Jackel’s upside-down paper city. Clearly having dumped free its human contaminants, the supple and delicate ripples from skyscrapers and warehouses offer us a gorgeous alternative to the dingy and stingy we’re accustomed to in a megalopolis. Leslie Lawson’s oils of lush, inviting landscapes in which nature literally erases the harsh lines of manmade materials are also a pleasure to hope for, and George Comer joins in with his impasto abstracted landscapes of bright little flowers like a droplet of positivity.

On the other hand, Mihyang Kim’s exceptional paintings, Under Pressure and Disregard Hygienic Rules, feature a row of decapitated trees—the trunks swiped clean by a pendulum of plastic jugs—and a bloody pool of what appear to be shattered eggs inside a uterus, respectively. Then again, perhaps that latter image can reflect whatever personal ailment you’re looking forward to or are hoping to back away from. Elana Melissa Hill’s series of paintings of oil drills, city silhouettes and pollution clouds pretty as any sunset also offer a pause and a sigh.

Perhaps the most apropos piece in the exhibit, in regard to my hypothesis and prophecy, comes from Conchi Sanford. His installation of over a dozen mini houses made from transparent plastic and filled with discarded building materials such as chicken wire, gears and cement, is the perfect analogy for our modern architecture and consumer needs: make it cheap, disposable and in a design that is utterly forgettable—that way we can remain part of the pack. It hurts. I know. But don’t worry, it’ll be over soon. Until then, focus on the sunny side of the barricaded street.

“A Sense of Place, A Sense of Space” at dA Center for the Arts, 252 S. Main St., Pomona, (909) 397-9716; www.dacenter.org. Wed-Sat, noon-4PM; Thurs, noon-9PM. Thru July 30. Free.


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