Shifting Landscapes and Mending

Exhibition review of two shows at form & concept, 435 S Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, NM 87501 (This review will appear in the Spring/Summer issue of the TSA members newsletter, coming soon to TSA members, join now to be sure to get link to the full newsletter.)

By Alice Zrebiec, a curatorial consultant based in Santa Fe, NM. Formerly a curator at the Denver Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she has been a TSA member since its inception.

 Open call exhibitions can be tricky. They depend firstly on the quality of the work submitted, and secondly, on the ability of the jurors to select work that expresses the theme in thought-provoking ways. I am pleased to write that Shifting Landscapes, the 3rd International Juried Exhibition of work by members of the Surface Design Association, succeeds brilliantly. Kudos to the two jurors Erika Lynne Hanson, an artist whose own weavings, installations and videos are informed by the idea of landscape; and Frank Rose, director of form & concept, who comes from a photography and digital media background and practice.

Rena Detrixhe, Red Dirt Rug, loose red Oklahoma soil imprinted with modified shoe soles, 2017, 1/2 x 54 x 126 in. Photo credit: form & concept

From over 600 entries, works by thirty-two artists rose to the top. They present a fascinating variety of interpretations for the words “shifting” and “landscapes:” literal, abstract, environmental, cultural, and psychological (and more) executed in an equally diverse range of techniques and media. Embroidery, weaving, quilting, dyeing, and felting join paintings, photography, mixed media, installations, and video. Special acknowledgement is owed to Brad Hart, exhibitions coordinator for the gallery, for creating a splendid installation. Not only can each individual work be seen unchallenged and with ease, but subtle groupings expand concepts and ideas that may be obvious, or, conversely, not at first evident. Similarly, sightlines link works across spaces, opening interesting dialogues that invite the viewer to contemplate artistic connections and conceptual kinship.

Seeing the exhibition on its crowded opening night was a different experience than returning on a quiet afternoon. I was glad I came back to spend more time discovering how a number of the works “talk” to each other and to view some more closely. Yuge Zhou’s video, Soft Plots, was a hypnotic surprise. In the video, different areas of a sandy beach host volleyball and soccer games, Frisbee tossing, and lounging. Frank mentioned one of the reasons the jurors included this piece was its quilt-like patchwork layout of the images. But when I watched closely, I noticed that projectiles—and players—disappear “under” an adjacent court only to pop up elsewhere, in a way that weaves images together.

Viewers were fascinated by Rena Detrixhe’s first-prize-winning installation, Red Dirt Rug, created on-site from buckets of sifted Oklahoma red soil and imprinted with patterns using modified shoe soles. Its rich color has a visceral appeal while the delicate designs evoke textile traditions and traces of human passage. Installed without barriers, as Detrixhe prefers, the mutability and transitory nature inherent to Red Dirt Rug was readily evident. To see the artist’s process, access this time-lapse video and watch as she constructs a related piece in her studio.

Brooks Harris Stevens, Mending Gold: Leh Palace, Leh, Ladak, India, gold yarn, 2016, site specific. Photo credit: Brooks Harris Stevens

Other awards were presented to Yewen Dong’s Water is Fragile 2, Wendy Weiss’ Litzmannstadt Ghetto 1940-1944, and Eszter Bornemisza’s Cityscape. Works by TSA members also selected for the exhibition include Barbara Shapiro‘s Sea Change and Xia Gao‘s 40s Meditation. Although there is no catalogue, images of nearly all the work on view can be found on the form & concept website.

Brooks Harris-Stevens’ Mending Gold, a visual documentation of a site-specific project, addresses a break in one of the walls below Leh Palace in Ladakh, India  and Yuni Kim Lang’s Comfort Hair (Nest), a digital pigment print  of a living sculpture (a woman serenely curled up and resting amid an oversized Korean gache or wig), are perfect segues into Mark Newport’s concurrent and complementary solo exhibition.

Mark Newport, Mend 4, embroidery on muslin, 20 x 15 in. Photo credit: Mark Newport

In Mending, Newport departs from his hand-knit Sweatermen hero suits to explore other body- and psyche-centric concepts in this new work. Worked on torn muslin, curved organic motifs are juxtaposed with intensely stitched and patterned embroidered mends inspired by historic European and American darning samplers. The repairs equate to scars acquired by our bodies in our course of living, tracking our unique personal history and stirring our memories.

There are still several weeks to enjoy both exhibitions at form & concept in Santa Fe. Shifting Landscapes closes June 10, 2017 while Mending closes May 20, 2017. Unfortunately, neither exhibition is traveling to any other locations.