FRONT: Paralysis, Motion, Sound and Fury, at FAVA
Frozen motion and cross pollination across genres glow at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) as part of the FRONT International 2022.
Works by painter Alexandria Couch, media artist and composer Joe Namy, and video artist Tony Cokes are on view through October 2, 2022, at FAVA’s galleries in the splendid 1873 New Union Center for the Arts building at 39 S. Main Street, Oberlin, Ohio.
Alexandria Couch’s extraordinary figures fill large swaths of paper with paralysis and motion simultaneously. These new paintings from Crouch explore the relationship of blackness to its environment through found materials like recycled thread, fabric, paper scraps, and layers of paint over fragmented phrases and etched images.
In Sugar, Stay Away from the Windows, a young Black girl pulses against an excruciatingly yellow wall, hands twitching, polaroid-type photos falling at her feet as a group of shapes gather at the crossroads out the window. Scratched under layers of paint are the lines “We’ve shattered the void /
in exchange for / a box of mirrors / and our eyes cannot see through glass.”
Couch’s figures emerge and recede from layered backgrounds: quilted canvas and worn fabric wrap the curled-up woman of Precious Moments: The Levee is Overwhelmed by Water, her body echoing the sanctified and commercialized position of a Precious Moments figurine in the foreground. In Waiting for the Sun to Rot, the visual beauty and visceral horror of a Black man hanging by bound feet dangles against a background assemblage of etched faces, buildings, hands, tree roots, and plants. His hair swings left and catches the breath.
Joe Namy’s installation Sets for a Song assembles materials related to an original score composed by Halim El Dabh for choreographer Martha Graham’s 1958 modern dance Clytemnestra, with sets by Isamu Noguchi. El Dabh–a legendary composer, ethnomusicologist, and pioneer of electroacoustic music–taught at Kent State University for decades; this installation is part of Namy’s ongoing work on El Dabh.
Commissioned for FRONT, Sets for a Song includes digital prints, oversized scores, fabric, and sound clips via headphones. A selection of archival materials—a letter to Howard University requesting funds to attend a music festival in Algeria, production documents from the Graham and Noguchi archives—floats among Namy’s reconstruction of what he calls a “collaborative communion” between these artists.
Curated audio clips range from the layered repetition of “Taming the Crocodile with Trance” to the electronica echoes of voices chanting resonant vowels in “Ademealard,” adding sound to the cross-genre conversation.
Animated text and music—both preexisting—join forces to become something completely different in one of Tony Cokes’ video installations on view throughout FRONT 2022.
Nestled between two gothic ogee windows, an HD player loops B4 & After the Studio Pt. 2 (Everythingism) and Evil.71 + The Fall of the Studio, which draw from academic art writing (Greenbergian art philosophy), news, and rants from public figures backed by a fluctuating progression of primarily electronic music. The counterplay of sound and text (in what looks like the sincerity of the Helvetica font) allows enjambment: an audio loop a voice saying of “They’re not invisible” underscores the description of what a display of contemporary art in 1915 would look like: “grainy black and white photographs and a few paragraphs.”
Accessible materials flipped inside out and reconnected; yes, this is how one’s brain deals with the world’s overload (i.e., everyday).
FAVA is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.