Obscura blacks out Eyedrum

New show reverses many of an art exhibition's conventions

Obscura, meaning dark, reverses many of an art exhibition's conventions. Generally, an exhibition space is a white cube upon which brightly illuminated works are hung. For Obscura, Eyedrum's already cave-like interior has been painted completely black, suffusing the space with deep darkness. As your eyes adjust to the low light, artworks shimmer into view. Here, the works assembled by first-time curators Lisa Thrower and Joey Vicory are the light sources.

A text-based relief by Duane Georges hangs opposite the entry door. In it, the word "candor" is broken apart by individual letters. Each character becomes a separate piece of glowing sculpture. Georges employs various fonts, materials and methods of illumination, including perforated mesh, wire mesh, marbles, straws, Plexiglas, LEDs and halogen lights. The artist encourages an examination of typography, which we generally take for granted; he draws attention to the materiality of words and how meaning is contained in both the word itself and the way in which it's presented.

Obscura's artists represent a broad range of ages and experience. Veteran artist Larry Jens Anderson's video installation, "Vanitas Discussion Voice A and B," contrasts instinctual behavior with human rationality and repression. A dialogue of collaged video images plays on two tiny monitors framed with reflective glass. The work's small scale creates a certain intimacy, and the glass implicates the viewer in the conversation.

Newcomer C. W. Anderson debuts with "Ape Iron," a work comprised of heavily Photoshopped images of smoke mounted to the front of analog television sets. The snow patterns of empty channels light the TVs and offer a crackling soundtrack of white noise. Although photographs, the images of smoke resemble elegant calligraphic lines, making them seem more like drawings. While Anderson's installation is reminiscent of both John Cage's smoke drawings and Nam June Paik's stacked television sculptures, his use of the television sets as supports for the images is inventive. Anderson flattens, inverts, and repeats the images into Rorschach-like patterns that could be butterflies, animals or sci-fi Transformers.

Whereas all the other artists use some form of electric light, Olive Shaner employs fire. In "Shadow Lamp," the flickering light of an oil candle illuminates a clay relief. It's the shadow cast behind that relief, however, that gives the piece the romantic aura of a mythical time. Jane Garver's DaVinci-esque "Flying Machine – New and Improved," a kinetic sculpture that flaps its white wings, is similarly evocative. Like buds on a tree, yellow circles lit with LEDs dot the tips of the wings. The effect is magical: One could imagine flying close to the sun in this strange machine.

Obscura shines a light on invention, risk, humor and pathos, and in doing so, turns out to be a place of enlightenment.

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