Gallery Project exhibit explores notion of 'Process as Content'
Yet in inimical Gallery Project style, there’s more to this picture than meets the eye.
As the gallery’s exhibition statement tells us, “Making art can be seen as a conversation between the physical and the metaphysical in a process that allows the artwork to take on a life and voice of its own, and to exist in the world as an embodiment of an idea, concept or emotion.
“The artist begins with a sliver of an idea, a tangible intent, or a set of parameters or constraints within which to work. In the process of making, the artist constructs meaning through a series of decisions, some which are consciously led by the artist, and some which are led by the response of the medium and process. The artist may decide to conceal or to reveal certain aspects of the decision-making processes, and the process itself may act as the concealer or the revealer.”
The presumption that an artwork is a mere formal “work” of art has no place here. Rather, intent as impulse rules as the aesthetic itself undergoes successive manipulation.
Studying “Process as Content’s” in this manner helps cover the gap between visual apprehension and art appreciation. Because there’s a lot of superior art to appreciate in this accomplished display.
Curated by Cristen Velliky, a professor of art at the University of Michigan-Flint and a former Gallery Project collaborator, the display has a distinct southeast Michigan feel among its 24 collaborators—although in true Gallery Project form, there’s also art to be found from around the country.
Local artists are Ann Arbor’s Tom Phardel, Sharon Que, Kelly Salchow MacArthur and Megan Shein. Other artists on display are Darryl Baird, Thom Bohnert, Charles Clary, James Collins, David Constable, Christopher Daniggelis, d’Ann de Simone, Brent Dedas, John Dempsey, Chris Gideon, Gilford Goodrow, Namim Kim, Brian Liljeblad, Robert Mirek, Yvonne Petkus, Bethany Shorb, Julie Tesser, Sarah Wagner and Velliky.
Some of these artists have appeared in previous Gallery Project displays, and these artworks may carry over a bit of previous meaning. But by intently focusing on the process of creation, these works not only reveal their previous associations and orientations, they also illuminate practice.
The Gallery Project’s exhibition statement therefore rightly concludes, “The resultant artwork invites the viewer to divine content from the visual clues that are the residue of the artistic practice. These visual clues include those which were originally and continuously intended by the artist, as well as those which have been led by the process itself. The interplay, iteration by iteration, between the artist and the process, transforms material, derives meaning and provides a foundation for artistic communication.”
The most interesting aspect of this show is to follow the artistic process in an attempt to determine why this or that aesthetic strategy was followed by the artist. It’s not always as straightforward as it might seem.
For example, Royal Oak’s Christopher Gideon has contributed two baseball cards on birch panels—”Slightly Dark Hearted” and “Wavy and Joyful”—whose meticulous razor-thin slices placed side by side have reduced them to pleasing chromatic fluctuations. What materials Gideon could have chosen is not the issue; it’s his single-minded crafting.
Kelly Salchow MacArthur’s paper and rivets “One Sheet Twenty Ways,” on the other hand, is a joyful rearrangement of texture by another sort of manipulation. In this instance, MacArthur has cut a sheet of red paper irregularly and bent it to her satisfaction. Using her rivets to bow her material to its limit, MacArthur’s wall-mounted sculptural relief uses each of its three dimensions to supersede its initial single layer.
James Collins of Detroit has contributed an oversized untitled Op-art oil and household painting to illustrate his process as content. This handsome work has the refraction of all quality Op-art paintings. And the artwork’s exact placement of successive waves is so exhilaratingly precise, each line gives the appearance of being multi-dimensional as its vibrant patterns undulate.
Granted, not all these “Process as Content” pleasures are purely retinal. For instance, Detroit’s Bethany Shorb has contributed a neo-Dada hand-dyed and printed leather, acrylic, and shellac steering wheel masterwork entitled “I’m off to Love (Isadora)” whose title goes well beyond her work’s process. Indeed, punning off the manner of 20th century dancer Isadora Duncan’s untimely demise, Gallery Project stalwart Shorb gives us a “content” that wryly plays off her assemblage “process.”
Phardel takes the theme to its most elemental. Deceptively simple, his sculpture is actually quite complex through the patient attrition needed to do its work.
Crafting art through enduring nature, “Melt” is exactly what it’s named. It’s a hard-fought effort whose paradoxical rendering required as much off-handed erosion as its required skilled commission. And as such, it’s a totally realized “Process as Content.”
“Process as Content” will continue through Dec. 30 at Gallery Project, 215 S. Fourth Ave. Exhibit hours are noon to 9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m., Sunday. For information, call 734-997-7012.