Artwork that exemplifies playful humor can live in even the most worn and tired spaces. Buildings stripped of their initial intent emphasize the ideas in the artwork. Space 42 and Space Gallery epitomize this effect, as the artworks inside seemingly come alive of their own volition and that of dynamic energy generated by their occupation of a given arena.
Space 42 presents itself as a gallery that appreciates the enmeshment of visual art and technology. Local painter, sculptor and printmaker Luisa Posada Bleier showcases her experimental work there. Her art functions as an unrestrained celebration of disarray and distorted facsimiles. It's experimental, but not gratuitously so; rather, her work is an exploration into exuberant juxtapositions that clash and push against one another in curious, cantilevered ways. Untitled #17 and Untitled #39, wherein a crate of haphazardly colored sticks of wood seem to erupt from a white wall and picture frame painted off-white, with its surface sagging, reflect on disrupted order and spontaneous shifts in presumed, predestined design. The pieces also wink at Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Sam Gilliam.
In a video that played during the exhibition's opening night, Bleier describes her work as "informal." That word choice, informal, shaped my experience as I examined it. Funnily enough, many of the formally dressed viewers strolling through Space 42 that night did not match that sense of informality that Bleier's work and even the building embody. Clashing elements of shape, form, color, texture and light existed in every fabric of Bleier's solo show. These contrasts, while bizarre and imbalanced, inform the sense of humor encompassed in her paintings, sculptures, prints and installations. Looking out from the Riverside space at the neighboring residential area, glancing at the houses, prompted me to consider how Space 42 is itself an anomaly in an average working-class, predominantly black community. It was then that I realized that the asymmetry and contrasts exemplified in Bleier's oeuvre carry over to other concepts and concerns. Instances of experimental play and comedy can lead to profound questions regarding the complexities of life.
These observations and explorations into the imbalances of our world are also apparent in the current exhibition at Space Gallery. Other Places is the final exhibition in this incarnation of the gallery and it features the work of Wyatt Parlette, Matthew S. Bennett and Nathan Eckenrode. The three artists, all of whom focused mainly on installation art for this exhibition, utilize the ragged building that houses the gallery as vessel to investigate materials as a means of expression. Parlette's > is a glimpse into the recollections of an imagined childlike scenario limited by a faux treehouse and precarious ladders that lead into a foreboding place of instability. Bennett's installations are makeshift, temporal pieces that involve shifting lights, mirrors and corrugated plastic sheets formed into domes. Eckenrode's mixed-media installation grips the front of the gallery and embraces its lack of functionality (evidenced by the small wheel that is motionlessly suspended).
Much like those in the exhibit Luisa Posada Bleier, the pieces of Other Places present a world of variance and stark differentiation. Though they share a visual language (e.g., materials, forms, colors, etc.), each work's differences are so drastic that those equivalences are severely negated. The pieces have a transformative effect on the environment of Space Gallery; the artwork and the room of the gallery present a twilight world where artists Parlette, Bennett and Eckenrode create vestiges of stability from the ruins of chaos. I felt immersed in the realm developed by the installations as I roamed the area. The work welcomed me to carefully observe the intricacies of knotted rope, Mardi Gras beads and one-sided mirrors. It's evident that the artists were deeply engaged in their work and they transferred that engrossing sentiment into this show.
While Luisa Posada Bleier viewed playful experimentation as an external concern, Other Places addressed the absurdity of the experimental as an internal issue. These external and internal negotiations impact the nature of the gallery as a domain that informs and supports the artwork. Aged buildings like Space 42 and Space Gallery can be given purpose through art and that renewed design can create thought-provoking standpoints for the art itself.
Space 42's Luisa Posada Bleier and Space Gallery's Other Places are free and open through June, with varying hours. Before you go, check websites spacefortytwo.com and thespacegalleryjax.com.