For the past several years, Houston artist Ariane Roesch's work has been cleverly at the intersection of people and technology, whether she's outlining the interior of Midtown's Celsius 13 in electroluminescent wires or making huggable felt sculptures of early personal computers. The multi-media artist continues to explore that dynamic in a well-crafted solo show at Redbud Gallery titled "Simple Machines and Simple Dreams."
Roesch presents three distinct series that play with our innate desires, the physical landscape, and mechanization. There's her "picturesque landscapes" -- found sceneries of forests, meadows and lakes that are transformed by ink drawings, fabric and thread. In Insert Rhinoceros, for instance, Roesch has interrupted a painting of an idyllic forest scene with the image of a rhinoceros being hoisted in on a harness and pulley system. In Insert Bridge, a wintery nature scene is overlaid with the image of men building a suspension bridge. It's like Roesch is having fun at playing God with Photoshop (even the word "insert" has a computer connotation). And they're funny collages that through this juxtaposition look preposterous and out-of-place (especially Insert Rhinoceros). But then again, for all their ridiculousness, they're not really far off from the truth. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs -- or cutting down some trees.
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Another series here is Roesch's "comfort drawings" -- still-lifes of pillows done in black chalk on white felt. These more literally touch on the "simple dreams" of the exhibition theme, but dreaming doesn't seem so simple here -- the pillows are in a state of animation, sitting upright or listing to the side. It's likely even the same pillow, dancing restlessly across the wall from drawing to drawing.
Lastly, the exhibition consists of the installation of three soft sculptures -- a ladder, an outboard motor and a chair. They're not functional at all, though. The ladder is sewn out of a pink and white vinyl tablecloth and is held up by a pulley that seems like it can barely support the weight of the rungs, let alone a person. The outboard motor serves as a counterweight for the ladder and is made out of white rabbit velvet -- also completely useless at being nothing more than dead weight. And the chair is displayed high on a wall, closer to the ceiling than the floor, hopelessly and completely out of reach for any sitter. Indeed, the name of the piece is One Way Ticket (Himmelsfahrtkommando), which translates to "forlorn hope."
Each series is strong and engaging on its own, though it's difficult to see how it all comes together cohesively besides having some words in common. One thing does seem to be clear -- for any purported simplicity, nothing is as simple as it seems. A pulley or gear may be straight-forward in its science and function, but when combined with its intended use -- the end goal or dream, as it were -- things get more complicated, messy, strange or have unintended consequences. And that dream can still remain hopelessly out of reach. For all the prettiness in Roesch's feminine pieces, there's something refreshingly deeper and darker.
"Ariane Roesch: Simple Machines and Simple Dreams" at Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th Street, runs now through Oct. 27. For more information, call (713) 862-2532 or visit www.redbudgallery.com.