‘The Sirens' Song’
Arthouse's exhibition "The Sirens' Song" is seductive, luring viewers with artworks that hint at storylines and inviting them to make plot from paint
Reviewed by Nikki Moore, Fri., Feb. 23, 2007
"The Sirens' Song"
Arthouse, through March 4
Whether they come in the form of films, advertisements, paintings, or face-to-face conversations, good stories seduce us every day. And while we love and pay dearly to hear and see the work of good storytellers, most of us usually approach these figures with some degree of skepticism; politicians, lawyers, fishermen, and flirts have given the art of the tale a bit of a bad name. Yet in the work that inspired the name of Arthouse's current exhibition, "The Sirens' Song," writer Maurice Blanchot examines not just the retelling of an ancient story told by the poet Homer (one of the world's most infamous storytellers) but also the fundamental nature of storytelling itself. The question that remains is this: Can anyone escape the call of the storyteller? Accordingly, "The Sirens' Song" is both seductive and reproductive, as the urge to tell what is to be seen in the show repeats the storytelling nature of the work under view in the first place.
For example, the minute I begin here to write about the trompe l'oeil paintings of Kirk Hayes, I have engaged in a written "telephone game" of sorts, where I pass a story on to you based on the story Hayes' pieces have begun to tell me. That story, as told in Only a Flesh Wound, Love and Existential Penguin, is one of visual trickery and painterly skill, as Hayes' pure paintings first appear to be compositions of found objects such as tape, cardboard, and torn paper. On the subject of deception, in stories told about both society and self, Ali Fitzgerald's A Trenchcoat and Its Body Stall at Our Gate looks at the way we use clothing and external cues to tell those tales about who we are, even to tell stories that erase who we are. And as curator Kelly Baum points out on the DVD exhibition catalog being produced by Arthouse for this show, Joey Fauerso's The Woods, built into and painted onto three segments of vintage wallpaper, depicts both a story and the work of storytelling upon an individuals oblivious to a violent world that is slowly moving in on him. From the disturbing double portrait of Seth Alverson, which tells two stories of two commissioning clients, to the Chronicles of Certain Importance the best days leading up to my prom date (inside the Shell gas station kiosk), by Xiomara De Oliver, fantasy and fiction hint at storylines that the viewer is asked to put back together again. That request, the call to make plot from paint, is, as Blanchot points out, the lure of the siren. Our responses, be they dismissive stories about an individual painting or praise that narrates the work and talent of the artist, are complicit in the act of storytelling, in the art of seduction, in the song of the siren that will not let any of us pass by unaffected.