Art Review: Immaterial At Ballroom Marfa
Immaterial (on view at Ballroom Marfa until February), explores arts potential to transcend conscious states, while not privileging the metaphysical over the sensuous. Large-scale paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos span all three spacious galleries. Though the 12 international artists – all women – work in various media, they are all united as artists sticking true to process to create works that are often hard to categorize, but stand critically in-between formalist abstraction and minimalism. The strongest pieces are a handful of sculptures that evoke a strong psychic space outside of themselves, one almost as tangible as the physical space the works themselves occupy.
Heather Rowes All Day Light is one of four pieces commissioned for the show. Assembled from found materials in Marfa, the two roughly six-by-eleven foot folding screens confuse interiority and exteriority. The raw skeletons are comprised of metal and wood while voile, mirrors and wallpaper drape the panels separately. Most panels are left blank or empty. As the viewer circumambulates the screens, rectangular mirrors fastened to the hinges confuse the sight lines and vanishing points created by both the screen and the viewers reflection. Thus allowing for fleeting moments of self-consciousness. The mirror is a metaphorically rich material. It plays a cardinal role in both psychoanalytic and cinematic theory: representing the dissonance between the illusory calm of self-reflection and the emotional discord of encounter. The more the viewer interacts with the freestanding screens the more they echo the ambivalence and discomfort that characterize human relations.
Across the room is Australian-born Rachel Khedooris Cave Model, another material representation simultaneously drawing on and producing an immaterial space. The sculpture is a 3-D map of the internal shape of a cave. Sinewy and uncanny, the meandering plaster paths resemble a design for a surrealist rollercoaster. A number of critics have noted that the sculpture, in many ways, recalls a brain. This is fitting considering Khedooris inspiration for the work grew out of an interest in Platos Allegory of the Cave. Khedooris practice appears, however, to eschew Platos concept of philosophical clarity, which privileges the realm of forms (ideas) over the material world of change (perception). Instead, the two inform each other in her exploration of an otherwise hidden space – that of the mental.
In the north gallery Erin Shirreffs four unobtrusive but striking sculptures (all Untitled) hug, brush and lean precariously against a long wall. Though the sculptures look like thin limestone slabs, they are compressed from local wood ash, hydro-cal and armature. In the next room, a 32-minute video documents the slow movement of shadows over a full, crater-faced moon. Shirreff composed the video from 500 stills. Together, the video and sculptures create one of Shirreffs trademark “hybrid scenarios.” In these, she explores the ways in which 2-D media, here photography and video, inform our encounters with sculpture and architecture. Shirreffs textured but flat sculptures mimic the grainy resolution of the video screen. In foregrounding the often overlooked material qualities of the screen, Shirreff forces her viewers into a negotiation between real and virtual space.
It is perhaps the exhibits focus on physical and psychic tensions that led executive director and curator Fairfax Dorn not to broadcast the fact that all twelve of the artists featured in Immaterial are women. Female psychic space is a loaded subject, and gender tokenism equally limiting. In keeping with Immaterials theme and borrowing from Victor Shlovsky, Dorns non-qualification underscores “things as they are perceived and not as they are known.”