The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Nikki Moore, August 4, 2006, Arts

"Summer Group Show"

Lora Reynolds Gallery, through Aug. 19

Over the course of a lifetime, how many times do we say things like "I'm not normally like this" or "That's not me"? Think of all those ecstatic or horrible times during some vacation, some experience, or some period of living that we quickly label "not my real life." Surely a great part of our living is done during those "other" times that, we would like to think, don't really count. Looking at a broader cultural phenomenon, Michel Foucault called these imagined breaks in reality dystopias. He defined them as gaps in the norm, periods in which the everyday is broken into by something less common and less routine that somehow serves to illustrate the darker currents of a culture or practice.

Is that what summer group shows are up to? Is summer the time when galleries break out the plastic forks instead of the silver and just explain to the guests, "We don't usually eat like this"? Or are summer group shows more like talent shows: A time when every kid in school has the opportunity to strut his or her stuff in the spotlight?

In Lora Reynolds' 2006 "Summer Group Show," both emerging and established artists were invited to contribute work that seems to embody both possible summer-show descriptions. There is an aura of "leftovers" in the works hung, which, had each one been displayed in a solo show with other works by the same artist, would have disappeared into the familiarity of the single-artist format. Still, this is no blight on this gallery, which knows how to build cohesion. Summer shows are notorious for this sort of cleaning-out-the-cupboards feeling that often has more to do with spring cleaning than summer sizzle – a situation which, in all honesty, may be working dystopically to reveal not only what is on a gallery's backroom shelves but also the pressure galleries are under to produce exhibits of continuity – shows in which viewers erroneously feel they are "getting to know" an artist or theme because of the vast numbers of related works on display at one time.

After pulling off a series of strong shows since its opening last year, Lora Reynolds has built a reputation for intelligent work and thoughtful curatorial moves. While this summer's show is a departure, perhaps this gap in the norm for the gallery might act as a gadfly for the summer-gallery scene at large, prompting reflection and discussion. It might make us all more aware of our own dystopic moments, my own being this art review that doesn't say a word about art. And though you'll have to excuse me, as I'm not usually like this … I guess we all have those moments, don't we?

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