Dreams in Deixis

John David O'Brien, Artillery Magazine , August 4, 2022
If the endpoint of a viewer’s perception in art is to re-create something in the mind’s eye through one’s own experience of the artwork, then the work of art is demonstrative. It acts as a catalyst for the imaginative re-creation of something the artist is pointing at or out. What if the thing being demonstrated is in fact absent, which is to say it is not located in either memory or real space? This creates a short circuit revealing how the subjectivity of the viewer—alongside that of the artist—do not have a singular point of departure. It allows for an unfolding of the art in a place where the multiplicity of interpretative avenues is highlighted.

In “Dreams in Deixis” a group show at Tufenkian Fine Arts, one of the sculptures by Claire Chambless, Hedgehog (2021) straddles the gallery floor with an admixture of awkwardness and prowess. Its indefinability has interpretation oscillating between recognizing something animal-like or imagining something furniture-like. The imitation pearl strands that cover the surface of the six misaligned stems give way to a yellowy resin under coding creating tension between the regularity of the beads and the vulnerability of the beads and its uniformity. In the series by Rosemary Hall, Encyclia Imagosis (all 2020),  welded metal skeletal structures covered by oxidized fabric take the form of chrysalises hung on the walls. They lean forward, canting into the space just above the viewer. Their form alludes to an ongoing process of transformation that is part of the evolution of many natural and physical entities. The 2D and 3D works of Lara Joy Evans evince things that are built up by the accretion of smaller elements like the wood of termite pilings or hillocks of poured sand. Their scale is ambiguous, so they become even more open ended for the viewer to situate. The drawings set out in The Primordial Mound series (all 2021) cross over from being elaborate ant hills to miniature mountain ranges on a background of magically irradiating sky. Sessa Englund’s Snakeskin Boots (2021) utilizes found snakeskin boots as standalone sculptures that are joined to the floor with a willowy cascade wrap of clear latex, creating a kind of ectoplasmic nest conjunction with the concrete. Meanwhile the boots themselves are filled with sunflower seeds. These incongruities cause the work to seem both imminently fashionable yet even slightly grotesque.

Overall, the artwork in “Dreams in Deixis” curated by Ava Burnes celebrates an elliptical and ambiguous approach to the relationship between artwork and art viewer. Uncanny delicately unbalanced and delightfully perplexing, the viewer is left with a relationship to the abstract that does not simply reduce itself to the decorative nor does it settle easily into any rigid category. It nudges understanding towards multiple conclusions and celebrates those sensorial trajectories. The viewer is encouraged to dwell with the work and on the work with a slight tension but always inclined to remind them of the way subjectivities shift and meld.