It's hard to know what you'll find in a group show. Works can vary wildly in quality and maturity, and often the show's only constant is the white of the gallery walls. Despite these challenges, group shows offer a snapshot of a collective mind. The current exhibition at A\V provides a glimpse of a community of individuals boldly different yet unified by a dedication to both their own artwork and to the space itself.
Featuring works by a sampling of A/V's curatorial brain trust, the show brings a hodge-podge of media into the confines of the A\V gallery. Entering the space the viewer's eyes immediately lock on the pile of televisions against the opposite wall. "Ode to Brakhage," the work of the pseudonymous Dr. Hamburger, shares more aesthetic kinship with Nam June Paik than the legendary avant-garde filmmaker in the title, and features a loose three-by-three grid of nine televisions of varying size and vintage. The mass of the assemblage gives the viewer pause, just long enough to adopt the passive stare that televisions inevitably inspire. During my visit the TVs were showing high-contrast patterns and fuzzy network offerings, with one screen displaying a broadcast reduced to a small sliver. The narrow band of light flickered with color and motion, and moving around the room caused slight changes in the image. The effect was reminiscent of playing a theremin, the electronic instrument that produces sounds based on the proximity and motion of the musician's hands. While not obviously a sound piece, a certain musicality was also present in the high-pitched harmony of the sets, punctuated by popping static.
Joe Tunis' sculpture provides a palate-cleansing meditation to soothe the eyes after their initial jolt. Hung on the wall like a painted canvas, his piece features a large, square sheet of new, smooth plywood with a much longer and weather-beaten 2"x4" extending beyond the top and bottom of the plywood behind it, attached by a smaller block of painted wood. Moving around the sculpture reveals alternate perceptions of depth; a head-on look focuses the viewer more on textures than dimensionality. There's much to dwell on here: the tension between purchased and salvaged materials that could be an oblique criticism of consumerism, and the meditative effects of letting a person's eyes get lost in the intricate patterns of wood grain. In true minimalist fashion, Tunis has inspired a lot of thought and emotion with very little material.
Occupying the wall space to the immediate right of Tunis is Scott Oliver's work. A long and narrow piece of distressed metal --- also hung in the style of a framed canvas --- the shape of Oliver's work provides a visual "minus" to Tunis' more cross-like "plus." At a distance, the chemically burned metal inspired visions of a roiling sea churning with white-capped waves, while closer viewing reveals flowing brushstrokes creating supple textures. Rich in color, the piece features hints of gold, blue, and green emerging from the dominant copper brown.
The drawings of Andy Gilmore feature intricate images of both human and animal subjects. Tight, straight red and blue lines compose the flesh depicted, looking much like the striations of muscle tissue. While a few of the works feature fully formed creatures, we mostly meet the gaze of skinless beasts and look upon not bodies, but parts. Since Gilmore uses frames likely found in grandmother's attic or at a local thrift store, the viewer cannot help but remember that they once held images of intimate personal meaning for their owners. Substituting that portrait of a smiling cousin with these slightly macabre drawings gives the entire endeavor a pleasingly unsettling feel.
If I were to fault the A\V for any aspect of this exhibition, it would be the lack of words. Beyond a small label with the artist's name, there were few titles and no statements posted anywhere in the space, and upon asking the gallery attendant I was informed that no other printed materials were available. To that end, the pieces are sapped of whatever conceptual power they may posses, and much of the joy of interacting with contemporary art is lost. Perhaps the curators are content to let the viewer's mind wander and create independent interpretations of the works on display. Whatever the case, it appears that the A\V is in the hands of several highly creative people dedicated to the exploration a variety of media.
A/V Curators Show | Through January 27 | A/V Space, 8 Public Market | Thursday 7-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. | www.avspace.org