“Chasing Horizons” at Villa Terrace
Contemporary artists respond to ideas of horizons, landscape, time and place in "Chasing Horizons," on view now at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.
The horizon is a boundary, a thin demarcation between the earth’s surface and the intangible sky. Yet it is not a fixed point, but relative to where one stands at a given time and place.
These ruminations are but two suggested by Chasing Horizons, the current exhibition at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.
Implicit in these ideas is a sense of geography, a feel for a particular location and the character of land. Even the most unpromising locations have the possibility of contributing to powerful ideas, a notion driven home in Paul Ramirez Jonas‘s Longer Day. Taking this video at face value yields a dull car ride down a nondescript American freeway, riding toward the shimmer of the setting sun in the distance. We’ve all been there before, no visual fireworks to see here.
The video records the last twenty minutes or so of a day-long journey that began at dawn in Brooklyn, New York, and headed west for as long as the sun was in the sky. The additional easement of time was not considerable, but Jonas asks us to think something differently because of this process. Time is subjective and stretchy. Even among the most stultifying settings of ordinary life, the physics of planets and stars can allow a glimmer of the sublime to shine through the mundane boredom of rote routine and concrete.
Crystal Ann Brown, in her artist’s statement, writes, “I embrace the duality of the horizon as being simultaneously a boundary and a space for pushing forward.” The space she creates in Untitled (Breathing) is an otherworldly melding of rising and falling forms, cast in a greenish-blue light as though underwater. The video is a composite of reclining figures, bodies at rest as their torsos expand and relax with the rhythm of breath. The video is shown in the Züber Gallery, which was formerly a bedroom, adding to the somnolent nature of the work. The window shades are drawn, the room is cool and dark. Brown’s statement also likens the visuals of the video to waves. On an ironic note perhaps, the views of Lake Michigan, normally so present, are unseen because of the covered windows, and the movement of the figures onscreen becomes a humanistic stand-in.
Jonas and Brown are just two of the twelve artists in the exhibition, and while they take a fairly metaphorical tack in their work, others approach nature with an investigative sense of precision, an aim of controlling and knowing. Alessandra Torres presents a series of six photographs from The Portable Winter Series: Snowfall. She plays the protagonist, dressed in flowing white and standing in a pastoral landscape of rolling hills and a solitary tree. She uses a giant, fluffy white powder puff to create a flurry of snow, yielding a pale cosmetic coating over the lingering green, conjuring weather like a diminutive Mother Nature. Perhaps in a bit of sympathetic magic, the exhibition notes recount that it did snow during the course of her work.
Arguably the most ambitious piece, on the subject of calculating and recording where one is in the landscape at a given moment is Stephen Cartwright‘s Range. His Rube Goldberg-like contraption is a visual manifestation of data recording. As he describes in his artist statement, “Since June 21, 1999 I have recorded the exact latitude, longitude and elevation of my position on the earth every hour.” The end result is an undulating amalgamation of planes, rising and falling. For all of the precision implied by the data, the motion suggests transience of place and time. Nothing in nature is never quite still.
Chasing Horizons continues through August 25 at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Avenue.