Traveling Through Space and Time
And you don’t always realize it,
but you’re always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
– Laurie Anderson (from Big Science, 1982)
There is something disorienting about a lot of contemporary art. And then there is a lot about contemporary art that is re-orienting.Engaging with contemporary art is like a lot of training programs—from Marine boot camp to graduate school. First they break you down, and then they build you up, differently. A lot of works of art act the same way. And, understandably, many people might find these experiences as something they’d gladly avoid. But, it can also become a way of living, to question how you orient yourself all the time. There can be something enjoyable about always finding new ways to look at things, new ways to experience life. Two cases in point are on view at William Busta Gallery this summer.
Barbara Polster’s work is about human movement as a way of telling about a sort of abstract wishing and venturing. In an earlier video installation at the Busta Gallery, the viewer saw two people running in opposite directions, leaping as they approached themselves, merging in flight. In her work at the gallery this summer, the viewer encounters a series of videos in which he sees human movement, but without the source: a person bouncing or hopping or swinging without showing there is a trampoline or pogo-stick or swing which propels them.
The work asks questions about our movement through space, and also through the time of life. What does propel us?
When you first see Susan Umbenhour’s constructed reliefs, her array of color dazzles. The confidence with which she creates space entrances. They immediately suggest one way we recollect landscapes, by mentally creating sequential planes. And then you also see the varying textures of a natural environment, such as a forest floor. And then, for those familiar with Cleveland art of the past several decades, you see a kinship with the geometric constructions of painter Ed Mieczkowski.
It is more usual that we think of how artists create image—whether in two or three dimensions—than of how they create space. In creating space, presence and absence are partners. You can perceive space in art as a type of choreography. That is, you can view space in art just as you can in contemporary dance, choosing whether to look at the dancers or the spaces created between them, or to pay attention to movement, or to look at everything.
Looking at everything, these works of art are not about life, but, rather, are life-like, engaging and inviting with personality, and, always, an undercurrent of disquiet.