As you probably know, the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival (TBA:10) officially kicked off last night, and packed was Washington High School— home to the Works (TBA's late-night performance showcase) and a large chunk of the On Sight (visual art) programming. The big pull of the evening was Japanther's collaboration with shadow puppeteers Night Shade (check out Alison's rundown on that), but I came a bit earlier in the night to take my first look at the On Sight offerings. While I only made it through a few exhibits in the time allotted before the Japanther show— the monster crowds slowed me down considerably— I did get to spend some time with Ruby Sky Stiler's exhibit, Inherited and Borrowed Types, and I have some thoughts I'd like to share on that.
In a recent email correspondence with Stiler, the artist told me that she's interested in challenging "historical authority" through her work. This confrontation is embodied by three centerpiece sculptures (built from "foam, joint compound, [and] acrylic resin") and a series of collages ("woven from art history textbook pages"). Stiler's sculptures appear as faux-ancient nudes reassembled from broken slabs of stone. The nude women are headless and often terminate at the shoulder or arm, never totaling in a complete human form. As these sculptures are intended as criticism of historical authority, they suggest an incomplete account of the past— the narrative pieced together with haphazard hands, joining and mismatching factual rubble.
While Stiler's sculptures communicate her conceptual underpinnings with relative economy, I found her collages more visually compelling, and way less expected (after all, "history as potentially inaccurate" is a well-established idea). These collages vary a good bit: some combine strips of black paper with textbook pages to form rigid, checkerboard patterns; others incorporate color (pink), while the lengths of paper are cut into curves, tilted planes, and zigzags (as if processed through a paper shredder set on "Joy Division t-shirt"). When considering the textbook as Stiler's medium— and the way her grids become increasingly disordered and divergent— the artist seems to be thumbing her nose at academic art; imposing raw emotionality over the structured approaches to creativity represented by authoritative texts. It's the kind of angsty work that's just subtle enough to avoid coming off as immature or whiny.
Images of Stiler's sculptures, after the jump.
Stay tuned over the coming days for more on TBA's On Sight programming.
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