At Whitespace through August 6, three shows (two of them related works by the same artists) take unconventional looks at very big questions.

The CommaBox shows in the gallery’s Whitespec and Shedspace spaces merely ask “what does it mean to survive a dystopia?” Craig Dongoski’s Testament however, asks questions that involve, in his words, “manifesting new forms and vocabularies” that explore some of humanity’s oldest cosmic images. His Zodiac series here displaces some of these old cosmic images in favor of sets of interconnected lines and occasional anomalies (such as a collaged face of a woman on a telephone.)

Craig Dongoski
“Zodiac V” features unexpected images: a pink fish, a woman on the phone.

They are related to earlier Dongoski artworks, but bear no obvious resemblance to traditional representations of the 12 constellations, which in any case are imagined differently in different cultures. (There is a famous 1969 book about this — Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time—and I strongly suspect that Dongoski has read it.)

Dongoski writes that “stars are not points but timelines in a void,” but this idea itself is not obviously represented in the 12 mesmerizing mixed media Zodiac works hung on the left-hand wall.

Dongoski further comments in his succinct artist statement that “the large work Dust and Dreams illuminates the swelling of Time that is ‘continuously on the verge of explosion.’” (The source of the quotation is not indicated.)

Dust and Dreams is in fact a literal focal point of the show in its dramatic placement, and has repeated forms that might suggest such an explosive cosmic or cosmological outcome, alongside other symbols, among them a red T-shape, that also occur in some of the Zodiac pieces and in several works in the adjacent gallery.

All of this is indeed a “new vocabulary,” as promised, if not in fact a new mythology. The Testament series that dominates the second gallery is said by Dongoski to contain “its own microscopic coordinate system of dots, circles, and lines, coagulating around body parts, primate gestures, and simple shapes.”

He describes the ensemble as a scene in which “the sky disintegrates into a psychedelic cave interior” — the series features handprints reminiscent of Paleolithic cave art, among many other components. It is uncertain whether the works’ shift into a predominantly pastel palette and a rococo chaos reminiscent of the ‘60s Age of Aquarius aesthetic is meant to refer to the age of psychedelia that preceded today’s revival of interest in consciousness-altering. The mention of “primate gestures” presumably alludes to Dongoski’s fabled earlier series responding collaboratively to the mark-making of a chimpanzee named Panzee.

Despite all these clues, this viewer is left largely mystified even after being told that Testament’s recurrent figure of the Zodiac Man represents “void itself — a negative form — and he is formed through the meticulous scattering of dust that gives him outlines. He divides his body as he divides the sky.” This is a brilliant explanation of the reason for the formal qualities of the works featuring the Zodiac Man, who in Testament I and II appears “trapped in the maze.” At least one viewer is also trapped in the maze, even if I am differently deconstructed in the process.

Some of the emblems that occur in these works are familiar from the culture at large. In It’s All in the Breathing I Suppose, there is even a collaged top hat looming incongruously amid similarly antic forms, including the recurring T-shape. But the overall story, if there is meant to be one, remains singularly elusive.

Presumably all will be revealed, or concealed, when Dongoski delivers an artist talk at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, followed by a performance of Craig Dongoski and the Children of the Algorithm, with special guests Aaron Artrip and Danny Carey Bailey.

The exhibit in Whiteshed, which is literally a shed in the Whitespace garden, features this dystopian display of boxes.

In the gallery’s smaller spaces, the survivalist subject of CommaBox Vol. 3: I’m Never Coming Home (INCH), by the Comma collaborative of Carolyn Henne and Judy Knopf-Rushin, seems more easily definable, but the method by which it is approached soon makes its topic as elusive as Dongoski’s celestial speculations.

The third set of handmade boxes in the CommaBox series of collaborative artworks contains pieces by artists Barbara Weissberger, Eleanor Aldrich, Kelly Hendrickson, and poet Erin Belieu, who present representations of the sorts of things that might be required for the end of the world.

But the Swiss pocket knife, toothbrush and other practical or symbolic items (a Gods-eye or dream catcher, for example) are all rendered in sculptural materials or presented as 2-D cutouts. It is a presentation of meaning rather than a literal assembling of useful objects for getting through a cataclysm.

This is, of course, the point — to think sympathetically about the cultural phenomenon of prepping for events greater than those confronting us in this increasingly difficult summer of 2022. It is grimly amusing, as well as symbolic, that this box was completed in 2019. But as was the case with many other events, its public appearance was delayed for two years by the pandemic.


Dr. Jerry Cullum’s reviews and essays have appeared in Art Papers magazine, Raw Vision, Art in America, ARTnews, International Journal of African-American Art and many other popular and scholarly journals. In 2020 he was awarded the Rabkin Prize for his outstanding contribution to arts journalism. 

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *