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While I’ve followed Corinn Flaherty’s work with interest over the past year or so, it’s apparent upon viewing her latest installation, “Personal Topography,” at the Rhys Gallery that the artistic vision and exploration has significantly deepened and expanded.

Stretched, shimmery nylon panels are invaded by translucent cellular forms recalling wounds, orifices and genitalia, the perfect tautness and relative opacity of the nylon contrasting with the varying flaccidity and translucency of the cells, which range in color from blood-red through skin tones. In her statement, Flaherty writes of a childhood desire to see herself from the inside: “I felt that so much of who I was as a physical being was hidden behind a layer of skin and that layer felt like a barrier between the person I saw in the mirror and the mysterious, unknown person I imagined existed beneath the surface of my arms and legs and face.”

Flaherty’s choreography of inner vs. outer, opacity vs. translucency, tautness vs. flaccidity, flawless ivory skin vs. visceral piercing is at once beautiful and discomforting, melding visual sensuousness with overtones of disease and exposure. The familiarity, intimacy and bodily associations of the cellular forms and their colors play interestingly against the subtly unnatural color and plastic sheen of the skin-like nylon.

Jason Loik showed a mixture of pedestal and wall sculpture modeled in clay, of which the group of rabbit-human hybrid characters posed in interaction with one another is by far the most intriguing. The monochromatic, oddly hygienic pale blue coloration of the figures focused attention on subtleties of gesture and modeling, combining with the identical rabbit masks worn by the entire group to create a sense that they are at once individuals and multiple poses of a single entity. One rabbit-human holds a pair of flawlessly sculpted scissors, the sharp points of which potentially threaten another, but the nature of their interaction is left open to question, the toothily grinning, cartoony rabbit masks both belying and suggesting the possibility of violence. Nearby, another balances floppily, precariously on its head.

While the other pieces Loik showed continued the exploration of hybrid characters, the element of mystery and ensuing space for the viewer’s imagination to interact with the work was largely absent, and the work as a consequence more straightforwardly narrative. What you see is what you get. The rabbit-humans, on the other hand, provided enough information to suggest multiple interpretations without quite allowing any one reading to predominate.

Chris Chiappetta exhibited a large body of work, “Life Lines”, featuring heavily collaged abstract works on panel and a single sculpture, all incorporating handmade paper made by the artist. In the collage work, Chiappetta arranges innumerable small, linear strips of paper to create all-over fields of harmonious color and forms reminiscent of maps, or aerial views of urban overpasses. Nearly all of the fields have been finished with a glossy resin surface, while the more recent maps are not, leaving the collage process significantly more visible in their final surface. According to the artist’s statement, the works “mediate among the concepts of change, control, (un)consciousness, both the fragility and strength of paper and the essence of the omnipresent construction of line and its relation to the body.”

Seeing the fields and maps together draws particular attention to the very different effect of the resin-surfaced fields vs. the visibility of process in the maps. The resin surface unifies the visual field and enhances the illusion of depth, for the most part concealing and thereby deemphasizing process, while the maps foreground the obsessiveness of Chiappetta’s process.

In conclusion, rich and varied offerings from three young artists combine to create an eclectic and memorable viewing experience.

Rhys Gallery

"Chris Chiappetta, Corinn Flaherty & Jason Loik" is on view July 8 – August 4, 2005 at Rhys Gallery.

All images are courtesy of the artist and Rhys Gallery.

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