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Code: No Code

By J. Bowers | Posted 8/9/2006

Code: No Code

At Villa Julie College through Aug. 12

Elegant and inventive, Villa Julie's off-site Artscape offering brings together five artists who explore the communicative power of symbols, letters, and numbers--and the cognitive dissonance created when these familiar building blocks of communication are disrupted or manipulated.

It's an intriguing concept for a group show, ingeniously explored by Annet Couwenberg's "Are You Perfect Yet?," a series of embroidered linen panels created using digital computer technology. By creating Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols with a computer, Couwenberg presents an interesting contrast between old imagery and futuristic technique. What's more, each nigh-identical piece of embroidery sports a glass overlay, silk-screened with what appears to be Couwenberg's ideal measurements for the finished computer-made works. Needless to say, none of the images quite matches up to the lines drawn on the glass, and Couwenberg's obsession with perfection is an effective modern take on the ancient Egyptian fascination with the so-called "sacred ratio," a calculation based on measurements related to the human body. While only mildly aesthetically pleasing, "Are You Perfect Yet?" is conceptually rich.

Retired photography teacher Ken Huston has spent the last little while devoting himself to his sculptural work--small-scale blocks of granite that nevertheless possess monumental presence (pictured). Bearing carved legends such as "1+1 =2?" and "No Reason"--with the no obscured by a convex glass lens that renders it unreadable until you're right on top of the sculpture--Huston's works would be right at home in a sci-fi movie, impersonating mysterious monoliths from the distant future.

Annette Wilson Jones' stamped images, which deal with sign language and deafness, and Tiffany Jordan's silk-screened paper drawings, heavily influenced by abstract expressionism, feel out of place in this show. Though attractive and skillfully done, these works are less unusual than the other pieces and get lost in the shuffle.

On the other hand, installation artist Julianna Dail could easily command a solo show. Created by deconstructing and manipulating books, her pieces transform written information into highly visual, symbolic sculpture. "Words That Incite/To Ban or to Challenge" consists of dictionary pages, strategically covered in whiteout to reveal words such as "Darwinian," "Negrophobe," and "masturbation." Simple enough, but Dail adds a savvy finishing touch, tacking the pages to the wall with thumbtacks that resemble "red flags." Even better, "In Fourteen Hundred Ninety-Two . . . " finds her eviscerating an old history book about Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America. The book's spine rests, splayed open, on a shelf jutting out from the wall, and its shredded pages create a waterfall of paper that drops from a height, descends into a spherical mass, and eventually trickles onto the floor. Three origami boats, made out of pages depicting Native Americans, float upon a sea of unintelligible words. The piece is fascinating in its simplicity--its only flaw is Dail's failure to connect the hanging bolus of paper with the river of clippings on the floor of the gallery.

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