Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Life on Mars - Wolfgang Tillmans + Vija Celmins

A continuation of Life on Mars. It's been almost two weeks since I attended the exhibit, but things are extremely busy right now and there are other shows that won't be up quite so long that really should be attended. Like Paid Sick Days and the Tom Museum. There is still plenty to say about Life on Mars and thankfully the longevity of the show lends itself to leisurely posting. And so, on to one of the most impressive galleries in the exhibit.

Even this long shot of Wolfgang Tillman's gallery in the Life on Mars exhibit doesn't do the installation justice. As a totality, this artist's gallery was remarkable. The work ranged from non-objective to narrative, which I thought was one of the coolest things about the gallery.


This particular work struck me as being very eerie. I've used that word a lot in putting down my thoughts about Life on Mars. The theme comes through very forcefully throughout the exhibit. It was rather large, as you can tell from the long shot. It is difficult to tell with this image why the work was so strong. Part of its strength was in the print quality and in the subtle shadings which provided a subtext for the narrative.

Several of Vija Celmins' star fields were installed in their own gallery, providing a point of respite. Knowing the limitations of my camera, I didn't try to get a shot of these works. But I do want to mention some of the qualities of the artifacts that don't come across in reproductions. The works are all oil on canvas, which is mounted on panel. For the most part, the surfaces are without the texture associated with either canvas or brush stroke which is why the stars are able to glow the way that they do, making the works about light. Interestingly, the sides are left raw and it is here that the substrate is observed, providing a glimpse into the artist's process. The raw canvas is also visible, to greater and lesser degrees, along the perimeter of the face. Given the fineness of the canvas, it seems a deliberate act.

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