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"Perspectives 159: Superconscious, Automatisms Now"

This CAMH exhibition exudes heightened awareness

Phelps's Cruising with D., a long, horizontal drawing that spans an entire wall, documents a cruise she took with her girlfriend (Debi). No fights here; just a good time. It idealizes the couple's relationship, almost like an advertisement for the cruise line or photos in an album. Knowing the details gives the drawing an intriguing depth.

The exhibit includes sculpture and photography by Rachel Harrison and a 23-minute­ film by Oliver Payne and Nick Relph. Big surprise, though: The free-associative elements of imagery just aren't as powerfully communicated as they are in words. It's no knock on CAMH senior curator Paola Morsiani, delivering her final show in Houston (she's taking a job at the Cleveland Museum of Art). Morsiani has expertly achieved her mission here. In imagery, the automatism is well-oiled, as in Payne and Relph's repetitive film Mixtape or Harrison's photo series Voyage of the Beagle (Set 2). Their machination works faster, whereas the act of reading requires more processing and participation. In the context of this exhibit, Landers and Phelps fare better, which is something rare for visual art. How often do you leave a museum reeling from something you read, rather than what you "saw"?

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