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Follicularly challenged

Hair, an example of bodily detritus like flakes of old, dry skin or finger and toe nail clippings, has been used as a conceptual vehicle or "jumping off" point for a number of artists for a number of years now. Indeed, the body itself, as well as bodily fluids and the everyday physicality of the body's various movements and gestures, has also been featured as object and/or subject.

Bruce Nauman, sculptor, photographer and performance artist, once filmed himself as he methodically, sequentially applied four different colors of body paint (white, red, green, and black) to his own body. He also once applied black theatrical makeup just to his testicles --- the process of which he again filmed and titled Black Balls.

In the 1960s and '70s, more and more artists were exploring new materials and alternative identities. Cuban-born American sculptor, performance and video artist Ana Mendieta created a somewhat similar piece, which she parenthetically entitled Cosmetic Facial Variations. The piece consisted of a suite of four photographs documenting herself with different wigs and facial makeup. And how can we forget the work of Jeanne Dunning who, among other projects, completed a series of photographs in the late 1980s showcasing the backs of women's heads --- in other words, their differently colored heads of hair?

It was in the spirit of these recognizable connections within the artistic continuum that we ventured into Mauro Cringoli'sHair Die, an exhibition of images "digitally captured by camera and then digitally edited and digitally colored," now showing at A/V.

But therein also lies the rub: unlike any of the aforementioned artists, nowhere in Cringoli's work is any sense of the personal, or even a person, to be found --- unless, of course, you consider his statement, which makes reference to the "everyday act of removing hair from the drain and chucking it ... onto the wall or on the side of the tub." While perhaps not really an everyday act nor even one executed as such, the salient point for Cringoli is that the shapes these clumps take, like individual snowflakes, are never repeated.

OK...but so what? What are we to "get" or experience from viewing these digital derivations? These images may not integrate our awareness of our sensations or allow for any philosophical-spiritual permutations (or whatever else you might be looking for). But they do, however, belie their medium --- photography --- in that they appear to be abstract drawings that have been turned into three-dimensional objets d'art via their slick, shiny surfacescreated to adorn otherwise austere white walls.

That said, that doesn't mean they're not worth considering. Indeed, if you spend a little time with them and let your imagination wander, they could become something else ... say, perhaps, some kind of spirograph-like filigree-work or an amoebic undersea life-form squirming beneath the lens of a high-powered microscope. In this sense, like the no-repeat shapes, the possibilities are endless.

Hair Die through August 19 | A\V, 8 Public Market (second floor), use N. Union Street entrance | Gallery hours Thursday 7-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 423-0320, www.avspace.org.

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