Women & Their Work, through Nov.11
The subject of San Antonio-based artist Joey Fauerso's one-person exhibition at Women & Their Work is a single projected animation, Wide Open Wide. Part portrait, part landscape, part skyscape, the video sets hundreds of paintings on paper in motion, some of which are displayed in the gallery. A productive tension exists between the two modes of representation, but taken as a whole, the show does not push this friction far enough.
With the animation, Fauerso eschews linear narrative in favor of a series of meditative vignettes. In the first two, she depicts a night sky in which the stars delicately shift positions to the sound of crickets and birds chirping and launches a swarm of black birds into the air while a rush of hands rhythmically clap, mimicking their clatter. The third segment sits somewhere between a portrait and a screen test. It pictures a shirtless man from the chest up who opens his mouth to reveal a night sky filled with stars, then smirks, gets up, and walks away.
Although just a few minutes long, Fauerso's animation succeeds in drawing the viewer in while avoiding the one-liner syndrome that plagues so much recent video art. Wide Open Wide evokes a sense of wonder at the infinity of the outside world and the infinity within. The lyrical simplicity of this statement belies the labor that went into its production, which is documented throughout the rest of the gallery.
Scores of 8-inch-by-11-inch painted portraits of a single sitter paper the gallery's back walls. Each component of this grid array is a painted video still that Fauerso scanned and sequenced to make the final segment of her animation. (Unfortunately, only a selection of the total are included here.) Rather than installing them in sequence, the cells are grouped in progressions of three or four consecutive images. The arrangement avoids being explicitly didactic but nevertheless fails to draw much more than an equal sign between the video and its source material.
Fauerso included in the exhibition large watercolors of the night sky, as well as just a few of her paintings of birds, but it is the presentation of the portraits specifically that bothers me. Unlike other groups of paintings in the show, the portraits are not for sale individually the entire installation must be purchased as a whole. This may seem like more of an institutional issue than an artistic one, but in this case, the former has infringed on the latter. If split up and eventually displayed independently, the animation's painted cells would, in a sense, sever their ties to the video and become more painting than anything else. In the case of the portraits, this dissemination would spark a conversation with issues specific to the medium, including the question of whether something essential about the sitter's being can be expressed in a single image. The 324 paintings that make up the last segment of the animation begin to do this through sheer numbers, but Fauerso passes up an opportunity to push these questions even further. Wide Open Wide is a stellar video; however, it misses the mark as a compelling installation.
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