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A Satori of Sorts

Enlightening works on display of Hallwalls

The wonderful opening image--first thing you see--at the current Amid/In WNY show at Hallwalls is a drawing by Bobby Griffiths of a bottle--Mason-type jar, mostly full--labeled Epiphanies. Precisely what you want from an art show.

And there are other epiphany works along the way. Like Adele Henderson’s semaphoric chart representing five years of weather in Buffalo, based on National Weather Service records, January 2007 through December 2011. Color symbols and numbers indicating amount of sunshine, precipitation, temperature highs and lows, and hours of daylight. Lots of information on a small canvas. Similarly semaphoric and even more colorful is her chart of logo flags of the 100 largest world corporations. (Like the pages of flags of countries that used to occur as relief features in unabridged dictionaries and encyclopedias. But maybe more to the point. The flags of nations included places you maybe had never heard of. Most of these corporations—many of which you may have never heard of either—could buy and sell such countries. Probably do.)

Charts, graphs, are a kind of motif of this show. Or in one case, what appear to be graphs—line graphs—but turn out to be something else. Benjamin Minter’s meditative drawings, as he calls them, composed of multiple near-duplicate versions of the same erratic basically horizontal black line across white paper. “I developed this process of drawing as an exercise to help me focus on one thing at a time,” he says in a statement. And near-duplicate is where the art lies, he avers. “If I were perfect, and the drawing was done perfectly, it would not be interesting. It is my imperfections in the drawing that create interest in the piece...”

George Hughes’s chart is a map that he describes as “a generic interpretation of crime statistics in major cities...” It would be more comprehensible if it were specific to one city. A generic map? Generic city? Other work by this artist creaks under the considerable burden of expectations he imposes on it. One piece he describes as “from an ongoing project depicting the process and objectification of colliding various personal artistic interests, such as visual poetry, assemblage, painting, bricolage, and social commentary.”

Necole Zayatz has a collection of archeological finds from the future. Lovely little glazed sherds with markings under the glaze—like fossil markings—representing not organic materials but technological. (The idea seems to be that by the twenty-third century or so—when these finds are supposed to be from—technology will have quite killed off and replaced the now already much beleaguered organic world.)

Continuing through the show, you discover that the Bobby Griffiths Epiphanies piece is part of whole collection of such drawings—of bottles, duly labeled—amounting to a kind of psychic content graph of the artist, what’s in his head and heart. Emotions, interests, other factors and indicators. Lots of concern with pro basketball. A separate bottle for Larry Bird. Another for Penny and Shaq. One even for Dennis Rodman. Another for Grand Delusions—filled to the brim. Another for Life Savings—just a little, sloshing around in the bottom of the bottle.

Rodney Taylor has several abstract black and white basically horizontals and verticals incarceration sense paintings. One with accompanying enigmatic torture/ecstasy text, a painting entitled You Wouldn’t Get It If I Told You. Possibly true, but why the gratuitous insult to the observer? Somebody really smart and insightful might drop in. (Jonathan Miller might drop in. You never know. If he’s in town.) But if true, why bother to show the piece at all?

And pencil on paper drawings by Billy Huggins in a basically horror comics style. And horror image doctored publicity portrait photos by Kevin Kline. Kline takes old black and white movie star photos and cuts out the strictly face part, then further excavates concentrically into multiple under-collaged layers of color imagery of all sorts. Winding up with what looks like an open-pit mine. Ugly. “I take on the role of callow collector and curator of my own cabinet of media curiosities,” he says. “My work aims to re-contextualize and subvert these visual systems as a means of disturbing the narrative. My interventions on images and objects question the conventions and authority of their source material and detour their nostalgic simulacra.” More heavy burdening.

This is the second of five Hallwalls Amid/In WNY shows, running through the year and presenting an overview of current work of area artists. The current show runs until May 1.

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