by Kara Q. Smith
The best part about science fiction: seeing how far folks can un-imagine the familiar. In the future, the curious life of humans after Earth, what will phones look like? forks? mops? How can artists reenvision the mundane and embrace the unknown? Should they re-invent the mop?
Simply ascend the first ramp…
In a gallery weirdly made up mostly of ramps, four artists have installed work grouped together under Space: 1999, the title nabbed from a short-lived science fiction show in which earthlings find themselves living on a moon base surrounded by unrecognizable objects.
Chris Fraser, Incline (installation view), 2013; Courtesy the artist and Incline Gallery.
Chris Fraser’s Incline, 2013, physically engages the space of the gallery, having cut out sections of drywall along portions of the wall between the first and second ramps, exposing an inner, lattice-like wooden structure. Lights on the floor shine through the revealed frame, casting shadows on the opposite wall. The piece is subtly alive as people and time shifts, and had one never been to the gallery before, it would not be clear that this is not an everyday part of the architecture at Incline.
There is work on the landing between the first and second ramps, which is briefly mesmerizing and quickly turns into a wrinkle in time as one instinctively ascends toward the shining totem reigning over the exhibition. Randy Colosky’s My Turn, 2013. A beautiful pole of lathe-turned aluminum, its shards neatly surround the piece on the ground, a silvery sea. What sort of kinship might this piece represent? Perhaps it invites all of us to share in its mythology.
In a city where UI and UX are common terms heard everyday on the street, mastering the art of subtle changes that alter and improve everyday experience is something thousands of people get paid to do around here, and something Colosky’s piece brilliantly executes in the three-dimensional world. The future is usually only the present fast-forwarded, all our contemporary ideas evolved. This usually bears no relationship to the actual future.
Sandra Ono, Untitled, 2013; Courtesy the artist and Incline Gallery.
After arriving on the A-Deck, as I’ll call the upstairs part of the gallery for purposes of this review, two unusual 3-D forms exist alongside the left-hand side of the narrow passage. One hangs loosely on the wall, and the other is anthropomorphically bent over a low hanging shelf. Made of trash bags and mop heads respectively, these pieces, both Untitled, 2013, by Sandra Ono have organic fiber qualities, despite their mass-manufactured material origins. Their installation seems to almost hold life; could they be life forms themselves? Or augmentations of life forms? If robot maids ever do exist, rendering such cleaning products useless, Ono may have just created the world they will band together and live in.
On the right hand side of the landing is a balcony, overlooking the ramps below and providing a viewing deck for Dean Smith’s Untitled (anaglyph 4), 2013: a large circular piece printed on Tyvek, for which 3-D glasses are provided to view. In the context of the installation, it is fitting as its placement and aesthetic rendering is akin to an unknown object out in the distance, perhaps a new planet or moon. It could be that being a kid in the ‘90s forced too many seeing-eye books in front of my face each Christmas, but the ultimate appeal of this piece fell flat for me.
Together with the unique physical structure of Incline Gallery, the exhibition does navigate the viewer through the space in a new way, and solicits questions and excitement from viewers (upon figuring out that they are mops!) that parallels the sort of innovative and inquisitive perspectives we all hope still exist in any world we may find ourselves in. Artists always have the task of imagining what doesn’t already exist, to boldly go where no gender-neutral lifeform (we are in SF) has gone before, a scintillating challenge to hitch those visions to some possible, farflung future.
—Kara Q. Smith
[Image on top: Dean Smith, Untitled (anaglyph 4), 2013; Courtesy the artist and Incline Gallery.]