Rendered in clear, calligraphic strokes, Larry Jens Anderson‘s animals are taut with being, self-declarative with depth. It’s a playful, classic juxtaposition of opposing essences: ease and mastery, life and inanimateness, flatness and depth, all of it a curious departure from Anderson’s earlier body of work, which often explored issues of gender and identity politics.
Anderson — one of the three artists represented in an intriguing “triple solo exhibition” at Kai Lin Art Gallery through July 5 — writes about paradox and process in his artist statement: “The act of drawing is like magic to me. Making a collection of scribbles, dots, lines with waves of the stick dipped in ink on a beautiful paper is where the joy is.”
Ink drops and text — and even pages ruled, whimsically, like notebook paper – likewise keep us conscious of the paradox of painting itself, the flatness of the page, the vividness and depth of the object depicted. One is tempted to describe the animals here as anthropomorphic or to say that they seem to have personalities, but that isn’t quite right. These animals don’t have the human characteristics that those terms suggest: they’re not metaphors for people. They seem to have the removed, stupid, alert, purposeful, self-contained quality of real animals. There’s an endearing thingness to them.
It’s a quality shared by the animals in the paper cutouts by Ashley L. Schick, also in the Kai Lin show. With mastery balanced by a sense of play, Schick creates a sense of dimensionality in little scenes built of hand-cut paper. Often included are the animals that wander her stomping grounds, the Goat Farm Arts Center, where her studio is located. Goats, turkeys, dogs and chickens are depicted with affection and brightness, but also heft. There’s a stage-scenery quality to the landscapes, a clever creation of depth using the interplay of flat materials.
Works such as “All the Loose Wires” lie somewhere between still life and abstraction. Schick’s surgically precise cutouts of telephone wires and the odd shapes they take, the equipment and poles that keep them in place, indicate a perceptive understanding and curiosity about the spatial relationships between objects. Her ability to effect this, regardless of the independent meaning or interest of the objects she selects, and with such an unusual medium, takes center stage. The perspectively adroit artist takes in the mundane, the jumbled, the overlooked, the everyday, and makes it fascinating by her attentiveness.
There’s a sadness to the landscapes by Carl Linstrum, the third artist in the exhibition. He paints over camera-phone photos taken during a residency at the Hambidge Center in North Georgia, with a somber, subdued palette, though there’s also a delicious brightness to his rusts and burgundies. Flowers in bloom and spring leaves seem frozen, captured and still, while barren winter branches crackle with hidden warmth and stored light.
These mixed-media works are marked and titled by time and geographic position, as if they’re part of some ongoing research or information-gathering project, some larger study in which position is paramount, memory and perception secondary.
But Linstrum’s work is practically a study of how sunlight sets a mood, something entirely independent of survey-like topographic maps and geographic coordinates. Documenting time and place often serves only to remind us of how much experience can never be accounted: a single moment, a single position is eloquent but still tells us so little about the vast realms that lie beyond.