Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Unfortunately, the first work in the show is anything but spare and elegant. Eric Hongisto's installation painting covers the front gallery walls from floor to ceiling with jarring colors crammed into uncomfortable geometry. The forms are related to data about something, but we aren't privy to their sources and codes. Emptied of their meanings and tied to loud and arbitrary colors, Hongisto's graphical installation fails to communicate or connect.
A few steps down the hall bring you to a room taken over by Vasilios Gletsos. It is part installation, part stage and part parking place for masks, puppets, narrative maps and set elements that were used for a performance in this room. They make a compelling installation.
Visually, the main gallery is extremely spare and quiet.
Cole Caswell's nine framed black-and-white pictures are ethereally luscious -- gossamer figures on jet black backgrounds. That the images are actually of daddy long-legs spiders grown over with mold is quite amazing -- since the mold appears as webs that hide the specimens from our gaze. Scanned rather than photographed, the images float like ghosts in the black of night.
Aaron Stephan's ''Building Bridges'' is the most ambitious, interesting and important work in ''aggregate.'' From the outside, it is a 10-foot cube of two-by-fours and Sheetrock. You step through a small back door into a mirrored room in which a bridge of books literally appears to go on forever. The illusion is amazing. The messaging, on the other hand, is conflicted.
Stephan showed another book sculpture at Whitney Artworks earlier this year. It was a square structure of books in which was carved (yes, the books were cut) a hive-like space large enough to enter. It was claustrophobic and insular -- and I was mortified to see so many books destroyed. I don't care if the piece was well-received or if the books were de-accessioned from libraries, the iconoclastic and wasteful messaging felt morally decrepit. I hated it.
''Building Bridges'' is a huge step in the right direction. I still don't like the idea of kids -- or anyone -- seeing that an artist has cut and destroyed so many books. But the metaphor has become expansive: books -- and sculpture -- as bridges to spaces far larger than can be contained by physical boundaries.
While all 10 of Shannon Rankin's pieces in ''aggregate'' are tight and bright, my favorite work in the whole show is her large wall mandala, ''germinate.'' It is a huge circle made of thousands of tiny circles cut from outdated maps that are stuck to the wall with red-tipped pins. The rationalist idea of bits and wholes -- from the cosmological to the microscopic -- echoing each other is smart and comfortably apparent. The fractal patterns and geometries shift and flow with your eye to the point of being spiritually seductive. It is mesmerizing.
MECA used to do an alumni show every three years: They were salon-style cacophonies -- exciting but chaotic. This the second MECA Alumni Biennial showing three to five artists selected by a team of three outside jurors -- which makes the conceptual coherence of the show a very pleasant surprise. As well, I have never seen the interior gallery of the ICA's space look so great. This is an interesting and enjoyable show.
Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at
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