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Beauty in a Bottle Cap

Tony Feher turns the debris stream of daily life into art at the reopened Blaffer Art Museum.

But when he crams tables with stuff, as in Take It Up with Tut (2008), there is too much going on to highlight any individual moments. It's hard to take anything away, and there isn't enough going on to make it overwhelming in its totality.

The show could stand editing, and the weakest work seems to have been relegated to the upstairs gallery. Here are the middling collections. A variety of clear glass jars clustered into a square on the floor isn't expansive enough to be overwhelming, nor does it feel like some fascinatingly comprehensive assemblage of types. Four glass bottles with various colored fluids (Windex, coolant, brake and transmission fluid) are just insipid. A piece of white wood on the floor with four red-lidded jars is similarly lackluster, and I can't believe the gallery actually paid to have it shipped in. There may be some big backstory, but I don't know what could make the piece pay off. A collection of multicolored marbles resting in the lines of a square of sculptured shag carpeting sort of works but is too visually disjointed.

But Feher's floor circle of little circles is nice. Washers, caps, plastic gaskets and the like are part of the ongoing collection of Round Things with a Hole in the Middle Most of the Time. And the pieces that deal with mortality work especially well — Feher was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1989. Penny Piece (1995-present), the artist's ongoing collection of pennies from every year since he was born, is direct and thoughtful. They're neatly placed in a line on a shelf and shown with the glass jar Feher uses to store them. The oldest are the darkest, and even if you don't know the story behind the piece, the progression of the aged copper conveys information on its own. (Feher apparently left space for 96 pennies, 96 being the number of years his grandmother lived.) One of my favorite pieces is also upstairs. For Long Term Pillow (1997), Feher set multicolored plastic flowers into concrete poured into a cut-down cardboard box. The box has been removed, but the concrete created a perfect cast of its interior. It's a wry, lovely and poignantly humble DIY tombstone.

Washers, caps and plastic gaskets make up Round Things with a Hole in the Middle Most of the Time.
Photo courtesy of Blaffer Art Museum
Washers, caps and plastic gaskets make up Round Things with a Hole in the Middle Most of the Time.
Long Term Pillow is a wry, lovely and poignantly humble DIY tombstone.
Photo courtesy of Blaffer Art Museum
Long Term Pillow is a wry, lovely and poignantly humble DIY tombstone.

When Feher is good, he's really good. And if he'd just edit a little more, he'd be really good most of the time.

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