Box 13 Brings a Snuggly Temple-Fortress, A Stinking Kenmore Icebox and a Horror Show

The centerpiece of the new Box 13 exhibit, which opened Saturday night, was "Temple Hive," an ambitious blanket-fort by Monica Vidal, her second such "hive" installation. This one is golden and shimmery, a quilted skin fitted over an intricate, loopy framework that allows the visitor to step inside and examine an interior that is -- by means of exposed stitching and interlacing, and numbered fiberglass rods -- strikingly biological in its effect.

The spotlights shine though the translucent skin - repurposed drapery and polyester bedspreads, perhaps - to illuminate a warm and womby enclosure. The curving surfaces made for surprising sightlines into, through, and out of the structure. Several visitors were behaving like children around this one, peek-a-booing, and saying "I see you!" We only wished there were a low table and a miniature tea set inserted into one of tiny "cells," and that we had brought our teddy.

Making an entirely different use of space was Lisa Choinacky's inspiring assembly of old-school overhead projectors and ply-board silhouettes cut with careful detail to fit projections of basketball players in flight. The unfortunate title of this diorama -- repeating it here would only mislead you -- fails to communicate the immensity of this vision, these bodies of competitors converging together, their chin and eyes lifted, their arms upraised.

Their precise and symmetrical arrangement in the dark room, combined with the spectral images and heavy, wooden objects, made a sort of chapel. People's movements within became considerably more solemn and thoughtful. The projections created halos behind each of the wooden forms, adding a ghostly or spiritual dimensionality to the entire piece.

Upstairs, the joint exhibit "False Face High" by Jed Foronda and Emily Link assembled a variety of works without imposing any single vision. The result is that it's nearly impossible to identify which works are by which artist. The list of titles is more of a puzzle than a key.

The strongest work here was the trio of six-foot-tall, felt-skinned manikins dressed in hooded smocks straight out of a video game's vision of the magical realm. They bear gemstone-weapons and seem to be guarding their mineral treasures, a duller trove than the sparkly shards that Kia Neill has been producing in her studio (down the hall here), also derived from imaginary locales.

The most provocative piece at Box 13 was the Kenmore Icebox's installation by Jonatan Lopez, whose artistic production this past year has been astonishingly prolific and drawn from a common thread of experimentation, role-playing, and confrontation. His assault on the audience this time benefited from an unplanned electrical outage earlier in the day, which allowed the contents of the icebox to molder for hours before the show began. By the hour of the exhibition viewers had to withstand what one woman called the "stench of a sasquatch."

In "Beef" we stumbled into a horror-show, like when the girl in Chainsaw Massacre walks into Leatherface's chicken-bone art installation. Blood-spattered plastic sheeting covered the walls.

We found a table-mounted circular saw, manacles, and heavy rope. The fridge contained Eggbeaters, Kraft Thick & Spicy Original Barbeque Sauce, Hunt's Manwich Thick & Chunky, a bunch of rotten bananas, a can of Miller High Life, several sticks of butter, little bottles labeled "chloroform," and Tupperware containers labeled "James," "Craig" and "Steve." An iPod video screen installed inside a carton of heavy whipping cream recreates a killer's point of view and scans over a dozen Craigslist personals ads. A to-do list tacked to the outside of the fridge include items like "clean up the blood."

So it was hugely effective in grossing people out and irresistible in its morbid detail. Once again we gained insight into Lopez's performative and transgressive sexual strategy. Maybe Lopez's future statements will benefit from further investigating his own artistic motivations, as well as plumbing the rich and underutilized complexity of his themes and tactics.

The exhibits at Box 13 Art Space run through November 5. Gallery hours are Saturdays 1-5 p.m. or by appointment.

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