Tuesday, July 9, 2013

About Sam King’s exhibit entitled, Commas

On my way tonight to see Terry Dushan and Johnathan Harris's show at ACO. The following is my critique of the last show there:

About Sam King’s exhibit entitled, Commas, last month at  ART CENTER OF THE OZARKS

First visit
Enter the room
Look around at two walls of paintings, well lit and balanced
The presentation I liked from the first. Obviously, without posted titles, each piece yields its identity to that of the whole. I realize something out of the ordinary is expected of me here: the purpose of the exhibit may not be the same as the purpose of other exhibits of paintings on walls. So.
Which pieces am I drawn to?
Among abstractions, my eye is drawn to one piece which is marginally representational. Then when it didn’t resolve for me as the figure I had first noticed, I switched to another piece. That’s when I noticed the vibration. It came from nearby, but I was distracted by some activity among the people in the room, and when I looked back, I couldn’t find it.
I was left with the feeling that I’d seen something which was at first obscured, like with those pictures from years ago with repetitive shapes that changed, after minutes of scrutiny, into a “hidden” image of the ocean floor with sunken ships and fish.
It was time to leave, and I was unfulfilled.
I wanted to hear a musical ‘comma.’
I realized I would have to return later.
So I went home needing more explanation about what I’ve been invited to see.

After a couple of hours of research, I learned (I think) that a ‘comma’ equals an increment of dissonance, and that our perception of dissonance is subject to cultural bias.
(Lacking an image of the actual painting)
At this point I’m wondering how this information translates into the visual world.
In my experience, musical or tonal dissonance is commonly experienced as tension from which we expect relief. In music, this relief is called ‘resolution.’ In literature and in drama, ordinarily we expect a story with conflict, which is somehow ‘resolved.’
So, I’m expecting this increment of dissonance to appear in the body of work entitled, ‘Commas.’
Second visit
Again I survey the walls of work allowing myself to be entertained. The note of dissonance I find first  is in a piece with a red ground. There is blue-green there also, with cream. An almost complementary harmony with accents of light blue. My attention can’t be held, though, because next to it is the one in black and neutralized blue-green with a watermelon slice or sailboat leaning from the wind. I look closely, then back up. Way up. I think it is the best painting in the show.
The stronger contrast effectively draws me in from across the room. The slanted edge between the dark side and the light is compelling and varied: it vibrates. The ‘comma,’ or ‘slice,’ or sailboat rides the edge of darkness, leaning into the light. An extrusion of the line. Blue-green and red, this appendage in almost-harmony follows the laws of optics. There is excitement embedded in the colors. Vibration again. Dissonance, then resolution. Repeat, comma.
MM Kent    6-26-13

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