CURATING A SHOW IS LIKE WRITING A POEM
Exhibition Title: Turn On the Light
Gallery: Art Complex – Gallery 2010
Organized by Claire Bailey
Group Show – Participating artists are: Rachel Kline (Paintings), Kelly O’Neil(Paintings/Photography), Patty Paige-Short (Neon Signs & Lighted Sculpture), and Ata Toth-Fejel (Functional Lamp Sculptures)
Axis Gallery had an interesting show this month. Full of color and lights Turn On the light was definitely an experience. The group show featuring Rachel Kline, Kelly O’Neil, Patty Paige-Short, Ata Toth-Fejel and Eric Affonso(?) was a little too comprehensive.
Phil Hitchcock once said to me “Curating a show is like writing a poem, but some people write novels,” and that is exactly what happened this month with “Turn on the light.” In trying to write a poem, Claire Bailey wrote a novel. The idea of exploring the rich qualities of light, and letting the viewer make his/her own associations regarding the experience of light or the absence of it, had lots of potential. However, the themed show featured painting, photography, sculpture, and actual lamps did not read in unison, but said absolutely different things about one subject.
At the beginning I thought the use of neon lights and advertising images was going to bring to Sacramento the intersection between Graphic art and fine art. A discussion that started in Britain in the late 50’s and evolved into what we most commonly know today as Pop Art. When I looked closely at the way that the work was brought together and read the Press release I realized that the bright and shiny lights were not so bright after all. The work of Patty Paige-Short and Rachel Kline although different in media, referenced the use of light in ads and popular imagery that constitutes life in the cosmopolitan world. Yet on the same space Kelly O’Neil’ photographs, Ata Toth-Fejel’s lamps and even Kline’s house lamps painting seem to have very little relationship to what the neon signs and illuminated sculptures were saying about the experience of light.
Putting a group show together is challenging, but more so is to make a group show that features a variety of media. Curating a show of this type is complicated, because one has to have a clear idea on how the work installed references and conveys the purpose of the show. A group of different works is typically curated so that they can converse, presenting different yet compelling ideas about a given subject, but not, forcing works into fitting a discussion. One can almost fall for the cohesiveness of the show, in regards to “light” as a topic, but looking at closely, one sees totally different things through out the art. A bit too many ideas blocked the nice conversations that some of the artworks were having in this context, which only reveals how little thought was given to the purpose of the exhibition as a whole, and a lot more to: “how can we get this and this and this works to fit the title of the show?”
One of the most interesting pieces, if not the most interesting was “Rock Queen II” by the artist Eric Affonso. The human figure made of mix media stood as a living contour drawing tracing the lines and shapes that create the volume of the body. The Lines were additionally illuminated giving delicate texture and a futuristic touch to the sculpture. The ending at the head was left open with the lines of the contour right up, as if opened to allow life into this magnetic character of the future. However unique and splendid, the work of the artist Eric Affonso is not mentioned in the press release, nor it is referenced in the website as part of the exhibition Turn On the Light. Why? I do not know, but hopefully it was just careless mistake that of leaving out one the best, if not the best artist of show. Unless, offcorse there was a purpose in excluding Affonso from the promotional media that advertised the show.
Breaking the show into two or even three exhibitions would have achieved a lot more in terms of saying something about something. Some times, when too much is being expressed, nothing is being is said.