Emily Sloan's latest works are as basic as it gets -- circles. During her summer residency at Darke Gallery, the Houston artist has crafted metal sculptures inspired by mandalas -- a Sanskrit word literally meaning circle that is a major element of Buddhist and Hindu religious art. They're often seen as concentric diagrams and used to aid in meditation, like those moving spirals hypnotists are known for.
Sloan's mandalas aren't your typical drawing or diagram. They're 3-D, jutting out from walls or laid at angles on the floor. They look like wire outlines of lampshades, in coolie, empire, and oval shapes. Sloan even inserts lampshades in the center of some of these sculptures, leftovers from her "ShadeCloud" outdoor installation at Art League last year. Recycled from yard sales and thrift stores, they are yellowed and discolored in their age, but still left unchanged.
With her mandala inspiration, it can be assumed that Sloan wants to also put us in a trance. And the longer you look at the lines of her sculptures, the more you start to see shapes in them -- I saw flowers one moment, musical instruments the next. As you move around the gallery, the individual mandalas also overlap with each other, creating new lines and images.
The name of the exhibition -- "Enlight" -- plays with this idea of meditation, which often serves to enlighten, while also referencing the lampshades themselves and their associations with light. I've also been told that the metal works look best when they're able to cast prominent shadows against the wall, further playing with this idea of light. When I saw them, the shadows were merely faint, but I could imagine that this interplay could be quite beautiful if seen at the right time.
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One of the best parts of the exhibition is a video Sloan created with Jonathan Jindra that makes the warmly lit mandalas come alive as the camera moves in and out of them. Distorted voices provide the soundtrack to this entrancing film.
Sloan, always one to write her own rules, decided to hold her own artist-in-residence during her artist-in-residence at Darke, bringing in her refrigerator exhibition space The Kenmore and the video artist Sasha Dela for a sub-residency.
Dela takes up half of the gallery with your typical family living room setup. There are a couple of couches, a lamp, rug, and TV -- furniture left over from her summer Art League show -- while the small Kenmore refrigerator is propped against the wall. The TV plays Dela's new video "My Cars," a personal history in photographs of all the vehicles the Dela family has ever owned. It's set perfectly to the song "Hello It's Me" by Todd Rundgren, with its refrain "Think of me." With the 1970s hit on repeat and the untouched living room scene, it sets a very nostalgic, very funny tone. And as you wander the gallery, with Rundgren's voice crooning in the background over and over, it's not so hard to get into a meditative mood.
"Emily Sloan: Enlight" with Sasha Dela at Darke Gallery, 320 B Detering Street, runs now through September 29. For more information, call 713-542-3802 or visit www.darkegallery.com.