Visual Arts

Less is More: Artist's Excavations Reveal Hidden Layers and Meaning

From a distance, the drawings seem like pages taken from a vintage book on ornithology, with muted, matte colors and the Latin name below in spindly script. It’s only upon closer inspection that the images in Jed Foronda’s “Metamorphosis” exhibit at McMurtrey Gallery reveal themselves to be multi-layered creations, often constructed from magazines, periodicals or comic books.

The works, all completed within the past 18 months, show the artist experimenting and improving upon his technique. Each top layer has an amorphous or purposeful shape cut away; subsequent layers below have the same shape, inset just a little, to create a topographical map.

In Microgura Meeki, Polyborus Vulgaris, Ardea Alba Maxima and Bubo Maximus – all produced this year – the parts of birds are cut away to reveal eyes, heads, talons and feathers. There are birds within birds, the body parts aren’t quite where they should be, and the dichotomy between the outer shape and the inner structure is a successful melding of art and science. This deliberate mapping of the sub layers is a successful evolution from his earlier pieces, where he allowed the periodical to offer up its secrets through excavation.

Delicate knife work was involved with the multiple zones of last year’s Clashing of the Titans 1981 and Art in America No 4 April 2004, with 24 and 21 concave openings respectively. Technically difficult because of the proximity, the overall effect is dark, busy and otherworldly.

The multi-zoned approach is much more effective in the Allegorical Figure and Prometheus Bound, yielding hallucinogenic compositions with a nod to Hieronymus Bosch. The depressions reveal classic architecture and faces, biblical symbolism and Rubenesque nudes; there is much to see in the multitude of focal points.

The exhibit contains a few other works that remain unique in their characteristics. The pristine white topography of Mind Map #1 is complicated yet soothing, resembling the surface of another planet. In Star Trek Volume 4 Issues #27 – 35 1976 the comic book’s cover has been almost completely obliterated, with William Shatner’s head barely visible on the edge. The yellowed pages peeking through offer clues to its age beyond the telling subhead, “From Sputnik to Warp Drive.”

The piece entitled Life Magazine Madonna and Child in Great Sculpture December 16, 1957 features a cover photograph of Michelangelo’s marble sculpture from the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium. Mary holds a book in her right hand and her child’s hand loosely in the other; in the actual sculpture he seems eager to explore the world. Leaving the magazine’s cover mostly intact, Foronda has meticulously carved away the faces of both Mary and Jesus, revealing geode-like holes in their stead. It’s disturbing to see their faces ripped away, robbing Mary of her serenity and Jesus of his knowledge, but the brutality of the cutting suggests a foretelling of the child’s predestined fate.

Metamorphosis continues through August 8, at McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake, open Tuesday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-523-8238,

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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney