The Shape of a Pocket, Kelly Kristen Jones’ auspicious, if methodologically problematic, curatorial debut at Sandler Hudson Gallery, pairs a work by an established gallery artist with a work by an emerging artist, based on some formal or conceptual aspect that links the two together. The show, which encompasses 12 artists, is richly varied and intelligently installed, one of the better experiences of the summer.
It is, however, nearly as opaque conceptually as it is pleasurable visually. The shared visual qualities are evident, though usually subtle, but the intention of individual works and the affinities of the pairs are often frustratingly mysterious.
The circle is a recurring theme. Don Cooper’s painted circle as cosmic symbol rhymes visually with Steffen Sornpao’s repeated circle-in-a-rectangle screen captures(?) of—what? It is far from self-evident, and there is no information to clarify the curator’s written observation that the circles “recreate a tech-induced stupor resulting from too much time spent in front of a computer monitor.”
This willed blackout of specific information pervades the exhibition. Alex HENSE Brewer’s installation is indeed perhaps only “repurpose[d] elements of the urban landscape,” but it seems to imply (obscurely) something more. I was unable to perceive the conceptual affinity between Brewer’s work and Winnie Gier’s piece — a nature-magazine image in which a geyser with a solid block of color — even after Jones’ clues.
Jones claims that Teresa Bramlette Reeves’ collage and Maggie Ellis’ painting “employ a deeply Southern narrative to evoke both private and public ‘histories.’” Unfortunately, here all the histories remain private, which is a pity since Reeves really does have an agenda related to southern memorabilia.
Indeed, each of these artists has an agenda far beyond the production of sophisticated eye candy, but the only thing that is evident even to the relatively informed eye is “what appears.” If we have enough time and interest, we can search out the websites of the majority of these artists, and probably puzzle out most of the mysteries encoded in these intriguing works of art. However, we shouldn’t have to.
Some viewers object to exhaustive curator’s statements, but it can be difficult to perceive the internal logic of an exhibition without one. (Most theory-based exhibitions worth seeing fall into this category.) It is even more difficult to discern the meaning of a single work when it is extracted without explanation from a comprehensive oeuvre.
Jones is Sandler Hudson’s gallery manager, so a private tour to answer all these questions can easily be arranged. But this shouldn’t be necessary. Artists’ statements combined with less obliquely allusive curatorial notes would solve the problem. Through September 6.
On home page: From left: Marc Brotherton: Isn’t It A Pity?, 2011; oil, acrylic and ink on canvas. P. Seth Thompson: The Spaceman’s Disappearing Act, 2012,
archival pigment print (edition of 3).