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Art

Cosmic Junk

Two shows investigate the infinite and the personal

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Cynthia Ona Innis’s “Sunset and Batteries” is spare yet also expansive, mixing hard geometry with blooming soft edges whose forms suggest landscape.

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In Magnolia Laurie’s “in the space between,” saturated marks slash the grayed-out landscape.


Structures at the Edge of Infinity: from this heavenly body

At Jordan Faye Contemporary through Aug. 16

Landscapes with no landmarks, civilizations with no people. What does the quest for infinity look like?

The contents of a junk drawer, a tornado of lint. What happens when a collection of leftover junk is given meaning?

Structures at the Edge of Infinity and from this heavenly body, both at Jordan Faye Contemporary through Aug. 16, attempt to answer these questions.

Structures at the Edge of Infinity features the works of four artists—Lat Naylor, a Jordan Faye regular, and three artists new to the gallery: Cynthia Ona Innis, Magnolia Laurie, and Nora Sturges.

Innis, a Bay Area artist, paints and collages fabric with an explosive hand. These boldly colored pieces show forms under transformation, even if, as in “Sunset and Batteries,” that transformation isn’t exactly clear. It is spare yet also expansive, mixing hard geometry with blooming soft edges whose forms suggest landscape. In each of the works, there is a struggle between the man-made and the natural, with a different degree of victory in every scene..

Laurie is a Baltimore artist whose paintings showcase balance and opposition. In “in the space between,” saturated marks slash the grayed-out landscape, and looseness fights with precision to make a rough harmony. Her eerie scenes show repetitions of forms that mimic man-made structures and frantic scribbles that recall natural forces. She tells the story of the rise and fall of civilizations without ever showing a single human figure.

Sturges, another locally based artist, presents works that are small, tight, and muted in color. She focuses on arctic landscapes to show what it looks like when the last of humanity is reclaimed by the Earth. There is evidence of habitation in the abandoned structures, but again, no figures are there. The effect is bleak and haunting.

Naylor’s sculpture and drawings are astutely placed in front of Laurie’s paintings, with which they have the greatest affinity. His stacked installations are spindly wooden modules perched atop one another in a precarious tower. It’s meditative to think about the balance and effort required in the assemblage and the resulting fragility. According to Willa Frazer, the co-curator, the work is fragile and vulnerable to the occasional collapse, a part of the process Naylor knew would be inevitable. This cycle ties into the idea of civilizations being built, destroyed, and rebuilt ad nauseum. Naylor’s “Nothing Drawing” mimics the forms of his stacks but seems more disconnected from the rest of the show.

As a whole, Structures at the Edge asks whether the images and items presented are representative of the end of things or a new beginning: Do humans have a permanent place in the order of things, or are we a transient phase?

In the front room of the gallery, Willa Frazer presents from this heavenly body, her first solo show at Jordan Faye Contemporary, where she works as an assistant director. The seemingly linkless mix of multimedia works, sculptures, and works on paper and panels leads the viewer from the massive scale of Structures to a more personal space that is, nevertheless, somehow complementary.

“Object Poetry” is a flowchart of items from a junk drawer mounted and linked to different quotes via a map key beside the work. The legend lends meaning to lost things and debris. We don’t know these objects’ stories, but Frazer attempts to give us a glimpse.

She plays with junk again in her Nine Object series. The same nine objects are arranged and rearranged, then exposed on photo paper to make collages of the silhouettes. It’s up to the viewer to find the origins of the images (the objects themselves are attached to the pieces) or recontextualize the possible meanings. Frazer gives each homely item a chance for a new identity. We can think about the stretched-out rubber band and broken hair clip for more than just a second in this new setting. Frazer saves, collects, and honors these things that are often thrown away to let us see their potential stories.

Pieces made of lint and receipts occupy the other side of the gallery. They’re more fantastical than the other works: The lint sculptures resemble Seussian tornados, and the receipt pieces become hanging wall tapestries. They’re excessive. The amount of lint involved is insane, and it is painful to imagine how long it took Frazer to collect it. The dollar amount of each receipt is listed as one of the materials, a decision that clearly says something about the excess of consumerism.

All the elements of Frazer’s show are linked. The leftover aspect of the junk is removed when they’re repurposed as pieces of art. They’ve been elevated to the point where the viewer actually sees them instead of overlooking them in their native clutter. She’s takes the junk drawer and makes it art.

The simultaneous shows complement each other well. Structures at the Edge of Infinity points toward the wider world, whereas from this heavenly body leads the viewer toward introspection. Though curated by different people, with different themes, they can be experienced as the same show.

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