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Dwell. Bond. Connect

WEIGHTLESS: Jillian Lavinka flies high in Expedition 6.

By J. Bowers | Posted 7/26/2006

Dwell. Bond. Connect

At Gallery Imperato through Aug. 19

Gallery Imperato’s latest offering is an uneven, something-for-everyone mishmash of contemporary paintings, photography, sculpture, and mixed-media works that don’t adhere to any discernible theme--a sharp departure from the space’s recent and welcome tendency to pare shows down to a few artists who create similar or complementary work. Featuring 13 artists, Dwell. Bond. Connect. may lack the cohesiveness of earlier Imperato shows, but a few major highlights make themselves known immediately.

Maryland Institute College of Art grad Alex Kondner, last seen re-purposing laminated reproductions of Renaissance art as baby bibs, has inverted his high art as kitsch conceit. His new set of monumental sand paintings exactly replicates One Caring Place’s CareNotes, a series of mass-produced pamphlets for doctor’s offices and churches that juxtaposes feel-good articles about mental illness with incongruous stock photographs of flowers in bloom. Works like Kondner’s "Feeling Overwhelmed by Illness" and "Overcoming Loneliness After Loss" are wonderfully impersonal and Xerox-perfect potshots at the assembly-line mentality of modern health care.

The show’s two strongest sculpture offerings come from Laura Shults and Laura Cooperman. Shults’ three "Lite Clouds" are ethereal, asymmetrical networks of reeds coated with drafting paper and lit from within. Resembling Japanese paper lanterns, the sculptures appear to drift along the ceiling--a pleasant surprise in a show that mostly consists of wall-mounted work. Cooperman’s "Untitled," woefully tucked away in the gallery’s conference room, is a technically impressive system of intricately cut paper gears, fastened to the spokes, bearings, and chain wheel of a gutted bicycle. A simple concept, yes, but elegantly and skillfully executed.

Equally simple, a selection of pinhole photographs from Nancy Breslin’s ongoing series documenting meals out with friends breathes new life into a nigh-forgotten image-making technique. Lacking a viewfinder to compose the shot formally, Breslin’s photos are happy accidents--spoon’s-eye views that capture the blurred movement of food and diners and the transitory nature of eating.

Collages form the show’s weakest points. Jennie Fleming’s "Poems," a cache of urban photographs sliced into vertical segments, rearranged, and pasted back into 5-by-7-inch dimensions is equal parts facile and overwhelming. The juxtaposition of color and imagery feels completely arbitrary, and grouped en masse it’s impossible to pick anything meaningful out of the visual din. Scottish mixed-media artist Dawn Gavin produces similar confusion with "Alternaria II," a blue and orange painted circle resembling an Ishihara color-blindness test, covered with random map scraps that are secured to the wall with insect pins and blotted with water. Visually, it’s not much to look at, and it’s hard to know what Gavin was hoping to get at--her smaller collages, based on found postcards, are much stronger works.

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