Critical Mass 7
Comfort in chaos underlying “theme” of exhibit
Artworks, exhibited together, are in dialogue with each other, and a group exhibition, curated or not, can easily become a shouting match, a conversation that can prove resistant to the detective work that critics love to do – discovering themes and constructing meaning.
invited every practicing, non-student artist selfregistered on the Northwestern Louisiana Arts Directory to submit and exhibit one work. If a group show is a shouting match, Critical Mass 7 is the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
This show embraces the chaos created by 122 artists exhibiting side by side. Some are creating images with algorithms, while others are photorealistic painters; some are virtually in year one of their careers, while others have been working 50-plus years.
Within this chaos and knowing only what the titles conveyed about the artists’ intentions, I surrendered to the person I was before I had ever learned anything about art, to the pleasure of being dragged around the multilevel exhibition space by the works themselves, by the narratives, questions and surprises they presented.
These narratives were about materials, as with John Wagoner’s “Wild Thing,” a small half-painting, half sculpture, constructed from carved acrylic paint remnants, or Latonya Jackson’s “Still Him,” a drawing/collage of a boy materializing on wooden board. Or they can be about process, as with Eric Francis’s meticulous painting of an anonymous woman; Taffie Garsee’s “Tadpoles on the Water’s Edge,” a painting that swings fully into abstraction and part of the way back; and Julie Glass’s “No Reiteration,” a sculpture composed of the remains of the artist’s discarded projects – metal bins, chicken wire, sheets of latex paint – piled up and posed in a rusted lawn chair like a person sitting down to afternoon tea.
One work that demanded my attention as soon as I walked into the exhibition space: Linda Dickson Moss’s “Matrilineal.” From across the room I saw a large, white field punctuated by blue and green smears of paint. Moving closer, I saw that the artist had patched the canvas with a loosely woven white fabric – as if bandaging a wound – and scarred the surface with Xs. I stood inches from the canvas and saw a meandering path, a series of arrows, leading me around the canvas like a treasure map. This painting tells a story of motherhood and daughterhood, the wounds endured, and passed on in twists and turns through generations. I’m not sure if Moss is mapping this phenomenon or looking for a source, but the story she told won her the “best in show.”
Critical Mass 7 is difficult to make sense of, hard to write about, a cacophony of disparate voices, speaking and learning from each other, which is why letting yourself be overwhelmed, following the work where it leads, is ultimately such a magical experience.