Julia C. Butridge Gallery at the Dougherty Arts Center, through Oct. 29
The Butridge Gallery at the Dougherty Arts Center is hosting an autumnal show this month. All the work is earthy, thanks to the heavy use of wood. Weathered pieces, distressed scraps, discarded furniture, and stained frames concentrate the chromatic spectrum. The objects themselves vary from shadow boxes to constructed sculptures to African masks to a steam-punk guitar. Not exactly combines, the works look more like three-dimensional collages.
The use of rustic found objects, as if chanced upon while rummaging through the attic, builds historical narrative. But they might all be forgeries. Within the shadow boxes, you can find personal effects and photographs. These articles are framed with moldings or decorated picture frames. They create portraits. The masks refer to pagan and "primitive" civilizations. With the exception of one formed by skeletal remains and looking like Mad Max paraphernalia, most have African characteristics, probably culled from gift shops and repurposed here as signifiers of "ancient" histories. Then there is the five-string banjo. Not quite a guitar but embellished to be much more. The external decorations and internal gears, widgets, and wiring describe it as a steam-punk instrument.
At first go-round, the works appear to be products of multiple individuals, relating to one another through materials. The different approaches raise the question of focus. Do the histories hold enough persuasion to involve the viewer? If the narratives are truly fictional, then they are on the way of coming into their own. Without this element, the works rely too much on previous strategies of found-object combines.
Collage is a valid form, and artist Ronnie Weeks uses it well. When obvious references and strategies are not apparent, as in Her Biological Clock or Harvest Time, the different elements form stronger bonds. The geometric emphases reveal more unique identity without relying on overt symbols. The viewer is left to dig a little more than with the history already mapped out for us.
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