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Extra Ordinary

Group show spotlights the everyday wallpaper of these restless times

Conor Backman's "Aum, oooh, mmmm . . ."

By Alex Ebstein | Posted 6/23/2010

The Suspended Moment

Through June 27 at Open Space

The reflection of a florescent light on a paint can; a web printout, crumpled and discarded. We absorb, process, and ultimately ignore most of the visual details in our day-to-day lives, images that exist as a piece of a longer narrative, such as the subtleties of package design overshadowed by familiar logos. The artists in Open Space's The Suspended Moment present these fleeting moments, frozen, considered, framed.

Ilia Ovetchkin's four untitled pieces thrust messages from the artist's Gmail account into a physical and enlarged format. The photos, roughly 48-by-36 inch ink jet prints on muslin, float in a pink or fleshy field of color. Each image is an arranged still-life containing a soda can and an additional object: a camera, a dildo, etc. The imagery comes from e-mail attachments sent to Ovetchkin from artist Petra Cortwright, and Ovetchkin rubber bands a printout of the e-mails to the lower left hand corner. In these physical attachments, which contain only additional images and URLs, the communication becomes abstract and mute, links un-clickable, and the files only viewable as thumbnails. Authorship here is unclear, sentimentality inaccessible, but the language is familiar and ordinary.

Will Pesta's two lambda prints, "Hallelujah" and "Welcome," are created through an experimental combination of unrelated electronics. Using a flatbed scanner, Pesta captures a television screen's moving images as a single jpeg, each named for the coinciding dialogue from the recorded segments. Sweeping, linear timelapse distortions occur as a result of the scanner's slow capture rate. The images share a cold, green/gray palette, an average of the colors and emitted light throughout the scan. Upon close inspection, the prints have an intricate Moire pattern made from the vertical scanner lines mixing with the TV screen's grid. When captured photographically, moving images have a horizontal distortion, while Pesta's prints have vertical sound wave undulations.

Conor Backman--a Richmond-based artist and founding member of the youthful, collectively run Reference gallery--exhibits a wide range of works, each taking Suspended's theme in a new direction. Most literally, "Aum, oooh, mmmm . . ." is an assemblage of objects on a modified Ikea table. The legs, normal on one side, slope elegantly into a white, yellow, red, pink, and baby-blue rainbow on the other. Atop the table rest a stack of photographs and a plaster melting ice-cream cone, frozen mid-drip over a book on the floor. More subtly, what appears to be two lightly crumpled sheets of paper lean against one another in the far corner. The pages are painted sheets of steel with hand-rendered, photorealistic reproductions of web pages: a YouTube URL for "biggie skys the limit" and a jpeg titled "if a tree falls in the forest." Backman also includes two landscape paintings copied from beer boxes. Each is presented at the actual package sizes, with all text and product information removed. Without the branding, the images are elegant and clever, their original context all the more ridiculous.

Lauren Brick's lithograph "Subtitle Poem" is a collection of movie subtitles and the section of the frame that they are inserted over. The poem is created by stacking the individual dialogue lines vertically, but with the text comes a series of amputated gestures and scenery snippets. Together, these film pieces create a nostalgic melodrama, a romanticism of ephemeral media.

If you don't spend enough time with it, Alex Delaney's projected video appears to be a single image of a seated crowd, like a class photo: The group is seated in four rows of staggering height, all visible from the waist up, and the front row from the feet up. As the eight-minute loop progresses, one or two figures at a time shift slowly or fidget slightly while others stay frozen. The awkwardness of the uncategorized and unlabeled group is amplified by this squirming, making the search for a commonality among the group--age, race, manner of dress--equally vacillating.

It's a succinct articulation of this exhibition's exploration of the fugitive digital age. Disposable technology, instant communication, and unlimited virtual storage have conditioned us to consider few things precious, as they are only a Google search away. Suspended attempts to capture those banal moments that ordinarily pass us by. Daily practices that might soon be outmoded are a timestamp for these artists, and the works themselves only a brief pause before whatever comes next.

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