March Art Report

Monika Meler was born in Brodnica, Poland, but her family emigrated to America before the success of the Solidarity movement. The family settled in Chicago, and it was 14 years before Meler returned to her birthplace to find that everything had changed. Not only had the drabness of the Communist regime been somewhat eased, her childhood home was different, too. The house had been painted a different color, and the road which ran beside it had been paved. Her childhood memories suffuse her art, for, as she says: “I use a multitude of media—ideas transcend media so that my work can take different forms while exploring memory, nostalgia, history, and the past.”

Fragile Structures, her show at the 1078 Gallery which ran through March 7, was filled with haunting images and highly personal symbolic gestures. The most striking work in the exhibit was a large paper-cut relief print, “The Folded Folktale,”  which employed round, lacey, interlocking shapes stained dark shades of rose and navy. At its very center was the barely discernable outline of at least one skull, or possibly two, framing the intriguing, but disturbing narrative.

The Idea Fabrication Labs held a reception on the afternoon of February 21 to showcase recent work by Erin Banwell. Notable among the pieces is Banwell’s “Labyrinth Mind” (created with the assistance of Evan Moore, Brad Rios and Guillermo Cartagena), a layered three-dimensional laser cut sculpture based on a 3D scan of a friend’s head. The all white layers fold around a brightly lit structure, its “labyrinth,” in the center of the sculpture that “…[signifies] the complexities of the human mind.” This and about 25 other works will be on display through April when the Idea Fab Labs will have another gallery exhibition. If you want information on events or the classes that are held at the lab you can go to their website, ideafablabs.com.

ART+TECH at the University Gallery was a really fun show. Too bad if you missed it, since it ended on February 27. All the artists in this show were from New York City, but only one, Derek Larson, had problems getting his work shipped on time so I didn’t get a chance to fully appreciate it until later. I went to the artist’s talk on January 29 which preceded the reception and, of course, I failed to ask him a vital question (I only thought of it later): “Are your feces an element in your work?” (I can’t say shit in a high class art review!) If I seem to be fixated on this subject it’s because Larson mentioned he suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and that one of his works, “Summer of Hate,” directly references the problem.

Larson’s three works in the show were mixed media sculptures which had video images projected on their surfaces. Although it had some of the gooey, dripping elements of the other two, “Dog & Pony” was an oddly pleasing image. About six feet wide and three feet high it depicts a bower of leaves with eyes at either side. The eyes blink as if to clear the neon goo dripping over them while in the center a pair of hands interact, the left hand stroking the right causing it to bark silently at intervals.

Babycastles, the art collective of Stephen Clark and Sonya Belakhlef, had their mixed video installation, “Autominata and The Fruity Fantasy,” placed in the hallway. Essentially, it’s a video racing game, but the set-up was a little complicated. That involved three large pineapple, apple and banana pinatas which were connected to a flat screen TV. By manipulating the piñatas with a wand (you had to have the assistance of the gallery attendant to do so), images of racing vehicles appeared on the TV screen. If you did things in a certain sequence you could actually win the race!

Hye Yeon Nam, a Korean artist, had two crowd pleasing works (among three) in the show, possibly because they were so sycophantic: “Please Smile” and “Hooray.” When you stepped inside a rectangle marked on the floor for “Please Smile” skeletal wood and plastic hands pointed at you until you smiled and then they waved. “Hooray” was a double row about eight feet long of tiny wooden which bowed to you when you got close to them. My overall impression of the work is that techno art is in an experimental stage.

ART+TECH was curated by Nanhee Kim, Assistant Professor of Communication Design who first encountered Hye Yeon Kim work at a show in Atlanta, GA. In a brief statement Kim remarks, “…digital technology has arrived as a component of contemporary art.”

1078 Gallery is located at 820 Broadway and is open Thursday through Saturday 12:30-4:00pm. The Idea Fabrication Labs is located at 603 Orange St. and open most weekdays for classes. Trinity Hall is located on the Chico State campus and is open Monday through Friday 8:00am-5:00pm.

[Editors note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the work of Erin Banwell at the Idea Fabrication Labs was created using their CNC shopbot, as well as various other inaccuracies. It has been corrected, with our apologies]