“Mapped Refraction: Andrea de Leon and Micah Evans”
In this two-person exhibition, a symmetry of haunting forcefulness and colorful zaniness
Reviewed by Sam Anderson-Ramos, Fri., Dec. 23, 2016
Oddly enough, the moment in "Mapped Refraction" where the work of Micah Evans and Andrea de Leon seems most in sync is not in Interval, the geometric and somewhat fantastical sculpture the two artists worked on together, but in de Leon's installation, Cocoon. Cocoon is a series of seven gray porcelain objects hanging by cords from the ceiling. The objects are hung in a line, with the cords growing longer from the outside in, so that the longest hangs in the center, bringing the series to a point. The objects themselves have the narrow ovular shape of a cocoon, though their wormy texture reminds me more of brain matter. The organic aesthetic, along with the shatterable porcelain, echoes Evans' glasswork. Cocoon is different from Evans' pieces, and so very much de Leon's own – kind of haunting, kind of quiet – but those echoes affirm the symmetry between two artists, which is ideal in a two-person show.
Interval, which rests on the floor nearby, doesn't resonate quite as much. This is a counterintuitive conclusion on my part because, as I've mentioned, Interval is the only instance in the show where both artists literally worked together to make a single piece. The result doesn't quite do justice to either artist. The form is rather simple: an angular steel frame, like a diamond, enclosing a large glass bulb. I have to assume, based on the rest of the work in the show, that the steel frame is de Leon's and the glass bulb belongs to Evans. But the frame is so minimal, it loses the forcefulness of de Leon's other pieces, such as Void, a dark wall piece with a smoky emblem at its center, like some ancient warlock's sword; and the glass bulb has none of the colorful, Dr. Seussian/hamster maze-ish zaniness of Evans' glass bongs. Interval ends up feeling rather confused and noncommittal all-around.
The bongs, by the way, are the spectacular pleasure of this show. I'm not sure where the line should be drawn between Jeff Koons and Evans – possibly at irony. A classic Koons sculpture is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on pop culture, whereas Evans is sincere. His beautifully crafted bongs are not being presented as commentaries on much of anything, aside from the fact that glass bong production, at its best, is a highly skilled craft. All the same, it's a subcultural visual language, like graffiti, so excuse me if I want to see it as more.
Concept aside, the bongs are fun to look at, and I don't feel the least bit silly examining them the way I would examine a Tiffany lamp. The designs are satisfyingly diverse. Artifact Stretch looks like a tree branch; Corning Stretch reminds me of a motorcycle frame; Seguso Stretch Set is a glittering, orange freak. Evans also displays significant range beyond the bongs. Starling Trio is a set of toppled glass birds, belly up and grasping quarters. Needle Point is a bright, topographical netting, also glass. De Leon's quiet sculptures, as sober as they are, can't really compete with Evans' theatrics. This isn't because Evans' work is better, but because it has a different kind of dynamism that is overpowering in such a confined space. De Leon's work can be appreciated in the context of this show, but it will take an extra degree of focus. It may sound stupid, but seriously: How do you share a stage with bong art, or art as bongs, or, well ... you get the idea.
“Mapped Refraction: Andrea de Leon and Micah Evans”ICOSA Collective Gallery, 702 Shady #190, 512/920-2062
Through Jan. 7