Dan Sutherland’s current solo show “SEEM” at Moody Gallery consists of mostly small oil paintings and graphite drawings. They echo our experience in which the extraordinary visual cognition bound to our fragmented memory. From afar, they possess the dynamics and elasticity of a sculpture. (In particular, the tightly controlled spatial relationship reminds me of papier-mâché works by Vincent Fecteau, currently at the Carnegie International.)
The small size invites viewers to speculate and decipher at close proximity. Through the process, our visual shock on the unfamiliarity dissolves as we begin to see. Still, we may not know what we are seeing, but SEEM to understand where each element is from, intuitively. Forms twist, extend, curl or clash in the center. They resemble our vestige of memory and emotions toward the outer world: postures, countenances and movements disintegrate into a different form of presentation. Together, we see in them our imperfect but distilled impression of life. Painted in warm pallets (Sutherland prefers green, orange, and yellow), the pictures glow and recede with a humane tenderness.
A group exhibition takes the rest of the space in the gallery. Drawn from the gallery’s extensive collection, the diverse group show does not carry a theme. Instead, it focuses on individual artworks. Luis Jimenez fiberglass sculpture “Rabbit (from Progress I)” is eye-catching with its neon-colored theme. Made in 1976, the motion and energy in this overly narrative presentation of American Southwest (it assembles a leaping rabbit, a frog and a lizard with native plants) stands the test of time.
At Inman Gallery, Jason Salavon’s solo show “The Top 100,000,000” is anything but our distorted memory. Using computer programming, he abstracts the world we live in into artworks that we comprehend differently. Three large inkjet prints are hung together with the title “One Week Skin.” Without knowing the technology behind the scene, we view them as conceptual art. There are composed of 14 by 12 (168) squares, each of which is composed of small inner squares, often in different colors. Because of the unexpected contrast between adjacent squares, some look as if floating, while other seem to be sinking.
Those perceptual nuances become less relevant when Patrick Reynolds, the director of the gallery, explained the process. Salavon uses the computer software to calculate the average color of the TV program on a given channel, which is represented as a square. (Each big one of 168 squares represents one hour’s program, thus each print contains one week’s TV program.) CNN has an overtone of blue while ESPN is largely red. HBO has a mesmerizing array of gray (too much CSI series?). I am wondering what would FOX News and MSNBC differ in these prints. By incorporating the mass culture into a patterned and intriguing design, with some chances, Jason provides us an opportunity to grasp the essence of what we have consumed, through the indifferent program code. That added dimension makes the artworks much larger than the visual verbiage.
The title of the show comes from a series of inkjet prints of the master index (TMI). TMI is a table of the 5 million most visited Wikipedia articles (Dec 2007 to Nov 2013). We read the sequence with laugh and surprise, out of our own stupidity. For example, No 17 is “India”, followed by “Adolf Hitler.” Then unexpectedly, No 19 is “Pornography.” In another case, “New York City” (No. 38) barely beats “Human Penis Size” (No 39). The largest of the three prints the top 100,000 terms, hangs on an entire wall. No one would read them all, because a few sections are enough to make the point.
Its massive size manifests the magnitude of vulgarity of our times. Unfortunately, in the digital world, that is nowhere to hide.