In Elyse Defoor’s “Via Dorso: Sonnets to Unguarded Moments,” at Wm Turner Gallery through March 13, classicism becomes contemporary. The more than life-size classical poses of a nude male viewed from the back are photographs by Defoor. The Atlanta artist’s gestural drawings that overlay them, however classical their precedents may be, are as contemporary as the Mylar on which they are executed. The brocaded cloth the model manipulates is another classical touch, but its classic elegance appears in unframed black-and-white images that curl sinuously from the wall onto the floor.
The combination of tradition and innovation is mesmerizing. Defoor has accented the classicism by including small studies, and by framing her artist’s statement in a tableau that incorporates the cloth featured in the photographs. The large works’ balance of kinetic and static elements, however, is as much of the present moment as the gallery’s concrete floors and exposed brick.
It’s an exquisite accomplishment, and (pragmatically) one that can be adapted to suit different display requirements. The immediacy of the wall staples that are a feature of the gallery presentation can be replicated in other ways, and Defoor is prepared to extend her spirit of experimentation to the best ways of maintaining the works’ classical/contemporary tensions in considerably different settings.