The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Rachel Cook, March 7, 2008, Arts

'Jade Walker: Merriment'

Big Medium Bay 10 Project Space, through March 29

Jade Walker's current solo show is filled with furry, soft sculptures that seem more human than inanimate objects. Bright orange, blue, and red shapes are either stacked or falling down from what looks like an office-chair base structure, some futuristic exercise equipment, or a large, strange vacuum cleaner. The show is packed to the seams with three colorful, large, freestanding sculptures, a large flesh-colored installation on the wall, and a series of smaller hung "study objects" that are reminiscent of internal organs on display or some very sexual medical supplies.

Walker's work conjures up a slew of images from the lineage of female sculptors, such as Eva Hesse's circular, almost breastlike pieces to the long drip shapes within Louise Bourgeois' work. Yet since Walker comes from a significantly different generation and set of influences, it is striking to see the lineage of the shapes move in and out of her work. Each piece has subtle nuances of color on the edges or seams that tie the separated pieces both literally and figuratively together. Even the large wall installation has a petticoat underneath it with a small orange stripe at the bottom like a fancy party dress hanging in your closet.

The use of felt and puffy shapes as a way to indicate density in each piece works on Walker's behalf. Each of the freestanding objects is part of an ongoing series, and all are titled with Figure followed by a number. The most successful pieces are Figure Four and Figure Five, which are also the most structurally sound in terms of steadiness and weight. Five is made with weight pads and cast rubber, hence the exercise-equipment reference, but there is something seemingly sexual about the position of the pad on the backside with a post coming out of the top and some foam padding placed around the end. It looks like a massage chair turned on its head. Also the bright-orange fabric used as the skirt and head to the piece causes enticement. Four, on the other hand, actually has an office-chair base under the skirt of large red drops, which cascade from the flesh-colored pillow on top. This one reminds me of a mummy costume for Halloween with all the toilet-paper strands coming off, although the red droplets are much larger, and it is their weight and density that are the most intriguing. The shapes have personalities, and these seem to be floppy almost like a dog's floppy ears.

Walker offers a window into a variety of ideas by utilizing each method or process of sculpture, from the freestanding objects to a miniwall installation to the fabric drawings and finally to the small wall objects that are a product of edited pieces from the larger "figure" sculptures. Showing how Walker deciphers editing shapes from the larger work, this piece more than any other allows the viewer to roam around in her decision-making process. All in all, Walker's show is a successful display of ideas and definitions of gender and sexuality in relation to our perceptions of the human figure and body parts.

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