The Austin Chronicle


David Prince's solo show paints a beautiful but disjointed picture

Reviewed by Caitlin Greenwood, January 24, 2014, Arts

MASS Gallery, 507 Calles, #108
Through Feb. 15

David Prince leans on English ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin's 1968 essay "The Tragedy of the Commons" as the primary influence for his solo show, which depicts an imagined tropical location juxtaposed with stark reminders of domestic livelihood. Hardin's writings focus on man's exploitation of common resources to protect self-interest. Air, water, and atmosphere, according to Hardin, are cultural collateral, which are often exploited for the pursuit of the individual. While the topic Prince focuses on is undoubtedly abstract, the aesthetics of "The Tragedy of the Enclosure" offer a more palpable explanation of Hardin's world.

Prince takes our shared natural elements and highlights them through a series of videos, ceramics, paintings, and sculptures. Color dominates much of the exhibition. A chandelier of pastel palm leaves decorates the main gallery space. A bright ceramic pineapple greets visitors entering the exhibition. Vibrant greens and purples flood the screen of Prince's video installations. Filmed in Giverny, France, the videos hum softly as visions of Monet's gardens weave in and out of the screen. They are brief, quiet moments in utopia. But the narrative digresses with transition pieces, such as Prince's pottery, and the inclusion of domestic goods, such as an apple, or plasticware, hearkening back to reality.

The polar extremes of the exhibition – the coiffed, vibrant agrarian simplicity and the rough manifestations of consumerism – do not move together seamlessly. A disconnect exists between them, simply because the utopian elements feel incredibly deliberate, whereas the sculptural, domestic inclusions appear to be an afterthought. They are typical reminders of domesticity and do not offer nearly as much imagination and creativity as Prince displays in other parts of the exhibition.

Although the show itself leaves the audience with a desire for more, "The Tragedy of Enclosure" is a monumental leap forward for MASS Gallery. While the space has dallied with conceptual artists before, Prince's showing takes MASS to the forefront of contemporary Austin gallery culture, in which we see a fluid collaboration between visual art and philosophical leanings. This, alongside the updated features in MASS (new porch, fully fleshed-out gallery store), cements the gallery as a dominant player in the current artistic scene. We can only hope to see MASS's trajectory continue to take off, and expect that the exhibitions will subsequently mature.

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