Anyone who has a great older brother or sister knows that the defining quality of a great sibling is not if she defended me on the playground (which my older sister did) or if she loaned me money to get home from college (which she also did) or even come bail me out of jail (which she has to do for a while) or anything like that. No, I knew my sister was a great older sibling when I declared that the fort we had made out of the cushions of our couch was no longer a castle, but a pirate hideout and she just said “O.K.! you have to get an eye-patch ... and the paper gargoyle is now a parrot.”
Evelyn Rydz has curated a show aptly titled Under the Fort on view at the Rhys Gallery until July 15, which, just like the cushion forts my big sister created, provides a safe, imaginative space where multiple worlds can not only co-exist, but produce a dialog among each other. However, I don’t want to portray this show as childish or simply about notions of imagination. At this show, Rydz was able to pull off what most curators dream of pulling off, the show respects the individuality of the worlds each artist worked to craft individually in their studios while still producing a cohesive show where the pieces come together to resonant with a larger understanding.
For example, one of the artists Rydz curated into the show is Ria Brodell whose work contains highly detailed, reoccurring characters all of whom follow very specific rules within the world Brodell has created. What I got most out of Brodell’s work was the excitement of discovering the internal set of rules Brodell had crafted. For example, Brodell’s sculpture The Whale and His Friend the Submarinemakes perfect sense because the Submarine always accompanies the Whale. They have a symbiotic relationship. One cannot exist without the other, obviously.
Right next to Brodell’s work, Rydz has placed Sally Moore’s delicate, vulnerable and meticulously crafted sculptures. For me, Moore’s pieces have less to do with the creation of an internal set of rules for an imagined world as Brodell’s does, but more to do with evoking a sense of tension and elegant balance between any two binary worlds. An internal and external world, a conscious and unconscious world, a vulnerable and controlled world, etc.
While Brodell’s and Moore’s worlds were created separately by two artists who never intended for these self-contained worlds to be placed next to each other, Rydz is able to curate them and the rest of the artists in a way so that the worlds do not collide. Even more importantly, Rydz is also able to respect the integrity of the artist’s worlds and keep the two worlds separate. Too many curators end up overriding the worlds that artists create in order to force the worlds under one curatorial vision. Rydz allows the artist's worlds to exist independently, but when seeing the myriad of pieces together, a larger theme of how artists work within imagined worlds materializes.
Every artist Rydz has chosen for the Under the Fort exhibition creates a world that is a reaction to the world around them, rather than solely the creation of a self-contained world. For example, another artist Rydz chose for the show is Brian Burkhardt. Burkhardt’s butterflies from The Luxury Collection are a reaction to the internal rules and codes of American consumer culture. The world Burkhardt creates has its own visual indicators that blur the line of the natural and artificial world, making a world that combines and re-defines how value is seen and processed.
Under the Fort is an exhibition that houses and respects many different worlds, but none of them are closed off worlds. Rydz has curated a show that highlights how the imagined worlds artists create are permeable and dynamic reactions to the world surrounding them. Just like being under the cushion fort with my sister where the imagined worlds we created were inevitably worlds that reacted to the “outside world”. At least until the rain would stop and we’d burst out of the fort to run and play outside. Leaving my mom to turn the fort back into the couch.
The Rhys Gallery
"Under the Fort" is on view until July 15th at The Rhys Gallery.
All images are courtesy of the artists and the Rhys Gallery.