'Susan Collis: So it goes'
The artist's meta-referentiality in her media is not merely clever but also wise
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 1, 2011
'Susan Collis: So it goes'
Lora Reynolds Gallery, 360 Nueces #50, 215-4965
Through July 16
Ah, here's some fine conceptual work that emerges from the very craft used to create its foundations.
The British artist Susan Collis spends a lot of time applying graphite marks to paper, creating fields of gray that expand
across a surface, that overlap to subtle hypnotic effect, that sometimes define negative space into stark, white scribbles against a relentless monochrome. These are explorations worth viewing pretty much whenever an artist undertakes them with diligence and brains, and they're certainly worth viewing here. But then, in "So it goes," her second solo show at Lora Reynolds Gallery, Collis advances to a place that writers would call metafictive – and it gets even better.
Here's Anything really, a framed vision of seemingly infinite cross-hatching. But of course it's not infinite: Those marks may be as yet uncounted, but they're ipso facto finite. No, the "seemingly," strangely enough, refers to the marks themselves. Because they're not marks. What they are is the short lengths of much-used mechanical-pencil leads, thousands and thousands of them, framed and trapped behind a sheet of glass. The artist's means of production have been transformed into the product itself, into a product that sharply resembles the other products until you look, eyes blinking, real damned close. First, it presents as a rather fine bit of pencilwork, then it twists your mind's sense of perception, then it achieves both simultaneously.
(This sort of stealthy chicanery was the most remarkable thing about Collis' first solo show at Lora Reynolds: What appeared in "Why did I think this was a good idea" to be common bolt-anchors and screws affixed to the gallery walls were actually sculptural simulacra of those items – precisely fashioned from silver, gold, sapphire, and diamonds.)
If you do a lot of drawing, you're likely going to ball up and throw away quite a bit of paper, right? And, if you're Collis, you're going to reference the process by casually displaying such wadded reject sheets – but only after having coated them with gold or palladium leaf. Or maybe, as in On second thoughts, by amplifying the crumpling creases with carefully applied graphite marks on a series of balled paper on the gallery floor. It's as if Collis is underlining reality, trying to give selected sections of the artist's life an italic emphasis. And it works.
There's more for you to discover here, of course, but I tell you, reader: The meta-referentiality of this exhibition, not merely clever but also wise, adds depth of thought to what's already worth exercising your rods and cones on. Collis' art attacks like a team of ninjas, the techniques of which are said to be unstoppable.