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Grimaldis @ 405

IRON MAN: John Ruppert's "Strike" (above); below, an installation view of Area 405.

By Kate Noonan | Posted 7/23/2008

Grimaldis @ 405

At Area 405 through Aug. 9

Nonprofit alternative art space Area 405's mission is to encourage artists and curators to think outside the typical white-box gallery when planning and executing an exhibition. In its current satellite show at Area 405, C. Grimaldis Gallery transforms the space with a collection of perfectly suited large-scale industrial sculptures.

John Ruppert dominates the show with four clever pieces, including his homage to Auguste Rodin's controversial sculpture of Honoré de Balzac. Like Rodin's own sweeping bronze, in which he de-emphasizes the body to concentrate on Balzac's plume of hair and powerful gaze, Ruppert offers a tower of rough-surfaced, upward-moving iron. In the gallery's second room, Ruppert's massive "Origins" is a dazzling feat of installation. Incorporating aluminum chain-link fabric (also seen in his smaller-scale works at Goucher College), granite, cast aluminum, copper, bronze, iron, and video, Ruppert provides a mesmerizing multisensory experience. As the video projects against the enormous cage of chain-link fabric, light musically cascades across the surface and along the floor. In the dark warehouse space of Area 405, the piece is particularly captivating.

In "Tunnel", Korean-born artist Chul Hyun-Ahn works with mirrors, light, and space to produce a seemingly infinite work that is at once beautifully magnetic and utterly terrifying. Using fluorescent lights, tilted mirrors, and sand bricks, Ahn produces the optical illusion of a cavernous tunnel stretching downward below the floor. Although you know this to be impossible, the eye tricks you into a temporary state of compliance, and you're confronted with a hole of awe-inspiring and apparently endless depth. Here, man is dwarfed by his own creation, rather than by the sheer power of nature, a notion that is particularly poetic given the current global climate.

In Area 405's severe, industrial setting, Maren Hassinger's wire-rope sculptures bring in a much needed dose of nature. "Moss," clinging to a brick wall in the front gallery, displays Hassinger's adeptness as a sculptor, imbuing the hardened metal with a soft, organic quality. Here, Hassinger reminds us what the other artists have told us throughout: Space and materials are malleable, and we manipulate them as we choose. And when you think outside the box, things aren't always what they seem.

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