Green and Gray provides us with the simple premise of how the organic and manmade world collide, combine or intertwine. With this basic directive, the artists present varied works that contend with the inevitability of the human impact on nature. The impressive gallery space is well laid out with the space to experience each work on its own while still being able to take in the whole. Several of the works utilize the enormous vertical space of the gallery—engaging the viewer in the experience they might have in nature.
Angela Cazel-Jahn’s 2009 piece Ballchain + Botanical, comprised of 103,800 feet of aluminum ballchain is mainly appreciated by pushing through it and experiencing it from the inside. Surrounded by strips of chain, it is like looking through a dense forest of trees but with the heavy smell of metal, instead of leaves and earth. The strips of beaded metal create a moiré that disorients the viewer looking inside out. The air plants attached to the opposite side of the installation seem like an unnecessary afterthought. If anything, they retract from the elegant, sensory experience of the piece.
Susan Beiner’s massive ceramic piece In Versus piles an insane combination of shapes and textures into a pile of glazed overgrowth. With similar colors and tones, it’s hard to tell if the objects are derived from detritus in the Great Pacific garbage patch or an organism from the ocean floor. The plastic arms that rise from the center of the main piece appear like a new, plastic species, as if the ocean has learned to grow something new from what we’ve thrown away. By separating out elements used in the main pile of shapes onto the wall, Beiner presents these segments like specimens from an expedition.
The Romantic, Hudson River School-inspired landscapes of Candice Eisenfeld blend, in treatment, shape and style, elements of our power grid with equally towering forest landscapes. Instead of feeling that these power lines are out of place, they feel cozy within the trees, fading at their edges into glowing light. The artist’s intention is to “acknowledge them as elements of the landscape in which we live” which is a welcome change from the ordinary view of believing that what is manmade simply doesn’t belong in nature. Her paintings remind us that we are also part of nature, for good or bad.
Jonathan Howard’s paintings are simple depictions of now-defunct structures, alone in the landscape and likely being reclaimed by the environment. This World Without Us view doesn’t appear to have much new to say. I have to question why they were painted at all instead of photographed. The treatment and technique of the paint doesn’t bring anything new to the image that we’ve often seen of dilapidated, no longer operational buildings. It would be more interesting to understand what his “mixed media” is and how it relates to the subject matter he chooses. A redeeming quality is the arrangement of the works on the wall which provides a varied panorama of these structures, all witnessed at once.
Green and Gray works well conceptually since it is based on a fairly basic premise that can encompass a large amount of work. The show manages to ooze silence, whether it be the silence found in remote nature or the silence of unresponsive manmade objects. It was great to see a show where the curator wasn’t afraid to blend various works that some, on first glance, may not think connect well. It is apparent that the works selected were carefully and thoughtfully chosen with a full understanding of what the show was trying to achieve.