By MATTHEW NASH
“Are you here for the art, or for the property?”
This question was overheard several times during my visit to the latest incarnation of Arthouse, this time at 73 Spring Park Ave. in Jamaica Plain. Like its predecessors, this exhibition is built around the dual purposes of showcasing art and real estate, and once again Brendan Killian has put together a great collection of artwork. The fact that there were real estate agents hovering with business cards at the ready did not, surprisingly, detract from the experience of the work. Much of this was due to the presence of many of the artists, happily talking about their work, and reminding viewers that Arthouse is very much about the art.
I imagine it must be very hard to curate a show that is meant to highlight a (future) home, since many artists become physically ill at the thought of their work becoming “decoration,” yet the carefully chosen pieces spread through the three condominiums do a great job of showcasing the talents of their creators and the space that houses them.
Many of the works are about space, architecture and our experiences with site, home, and domesticity. The photographs of Jennifer Uhrhane explore dilapidated spaces, worn architecture and nostalgic elements of the home. Hanging in newly renovated rooms, they serve as stark reminders of the impact of time on domestic and urban environments.
The sculptures of Christopher Frost explore architecture through a reduction of scale. His numerous pieces in the show are buildings in miniature, sometimes braced by elaborate structural supports, other times hanging sideways on a wall. Within a space that we are expected to consider for its architectural values, Frost’s pieces re-invest the very walls they hang on with complicated, ironic and funny new meanings.
One of the most beautiful pieces (among many) in Arthouse is by Robin Mandel. An array of small mirrors, cut into the shapes of moons and clouds, razor blades and liquor bottles, spin on motors under bright lights. Their reflections move across the wall, overlapping and distorting, creating a space both child-like and disturbing.
Samantha Fields has a room all to her self, where she proves again that she is the queen of domestic art. Her space is dominated by a knitted lounge chair, surrounded by a colorful knitted blanket. A corner space is crowded with brightly colored rugs and blankets, and the walls are hung with images of domesticity. Her best piece by far, though, is a sneaky video that can only be viewed through the open crack in the closet door and reflected in a mirror: footage of the artist trying on every pair of her shoes. It was filmed, and is shown, at foot-level.
Nearby, Sue Murad plays with the short-term nature of the Arthouse with “The Taperoom: a time based installation”. Here she has attached rolls of tape to the walls that, over time, will eventually make their way to the floor. The tension of the potential movement within the space turns a simple material and a small room into strong work.
Another artist playing with the space and exploring the closet space is Elizabeth Alexander. Her cut wood installations and wall pieces, along with some cut paper works, activate the room and have fun with the complexities of form, shadow and discovery. In one alcove, space a wall of cut wood cascades outward, while in the closet a tangle of cut black paper grows down the white walls and reaches, tentatively, through the open closet door toward sunlight.
There are many beautiful works in the Arthouse, far more than I could describe here. Erica Von Schilgen’s crank-animated pieces are lovely, as are photographs by Doria Grace, John Reilly, and Liz Alexander. Paintings by Linda Cordner and Sara Theophall, drawings by Corazon Higgins and powerfully creepy sculptures by Ann Hirsch each bring some new delight or discovery as one passes through the rooms.
This two-weekend event is a great opportunity to see (and buy) some wonderful works, so make your way out to JP before you miss out.
"Arthouse" is on view April 7, 8, 14 & 15th, 2007 at 73 Spring Park Ave in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood..
All images are courtesy of the artists and Arthouse.