"The First Horizons of Juno" features three moments I might describe as muscular. The first is Jane Hugentober's And that was that, a mixed-media tapestry hanging like a net from the ceiling by two threatening hooks. The tapestry drapes to the floor, its lower edge pouring over the concrete in ponderous folds. The tapestry is made from various media that coagulates like glue in places and features a rope-thick cord like a spine down the tapestry's center, as though the tapestry was an eviscerated animal, a carcass turned inside out. Only this animal is unrecognizable, and may in fact still be alive. It is weighty, but it is also delicate, breathing, as if despite its ragged appearance, it maintains hope.
The second moment is a bizarre video piece, Holograms, by Candice Lin. The video takes up its own darkened corner of the gallery. It includes a cornucopia of imagery I can only catalog in pieces here: volcanoes exploding; a robot operating a switchboard; people speechmaking to invisible audiences; odd, frightening humanoids made from clay, one of which appears to be murdered in front of our eyes by invisible assailants; and much more. Images are accompanied by mellow, largely unintelligible voices propounding on the mystical and metaphysical. While much of what was happening admittedly went over my head, I was rapt, engaged by the ever-shifting imagery, as well as the ominous, captivating stop-motion figures – the robots and humanoids – that pop up here and there like road markers to manage some sense from it all. Video work can often be obtuse to the point of absurdity, a reflection of sloppy decision-making, but Holograms screams order, even in the midst of its chaos. The Jonestown cult comes to mind, or even L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, a convincing madness that uses a surreal, dependable logic as its seduction.
And that was that and Holograms are on opposite sides of the gallery from each other. Between them is Christina Coleman's Transporter, an arch made from black synthetic braiding hair mimicking an African-American woman's 'do. Transporter is a good title for the sculpture. It's large enough to walk under (which I did, though I'm not sure I was supposed to) and can therefore act as a portal or gateway. If I was transported by it, it could have been to any number of dimensions – to another cultural experience, for instance, one that doesn't belong to me. I'm a Mexican-American male, so if I had my own arch, it might be made from something else, and it might take its travelers somewhere altogether different. But perhaps both portals – mine and Coleman's – would take you to the same place, or at least the same condition, which I'll call pride. Transporter is muscular in part because of that pride's imposing, elegant force.
These three strike me as muscular, not because they are the strongest pieces in the show, but because they are the most plainly robust. They're Beethoven, Metallica, Dr. Dre, something to pump your fist to. The other work on display is at least as fine, but it is often of a different nature. More swift, like Christine Rebet's amoeba-like illustrations. More capricious, like the archive of delicately curated objects that make Chantal Wnuk's San Diego County Objects. On a whole, the show is smart from beginning to end (if it can be said to have an end). It is variable. It is erratic. Most essentially, it is complete.
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