Along Came Another, presented by CFEVA
The Barclay building, 237 South 18th St., 3d floor.
By Julia Clift
Along Came Another features the work of two current fellows from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists: photographer Johanna Inman and sculptor Heechan Kim. The theme “along came another” loosely ties Kim and Inman’s content—both artists broadly deal with multiplicity and group dynamics. The show’s impact lies in each artist’s work taken individually. Inman and Kim’s respective visions are eloquently presented and highly developed; each offers much to unpack.
The show includes two groups of sculptures by Heechan Kim: one standing, one hanging. His standing sculptures each contain three elements: a log of barn wood, a curving ribbon of smooth ash wood, and a taught length of steel wire attaching the two. The wire bursts from a crevice in the barn wood log and its end is capped with a toggle; the wire “catches” the ash, its toggle pulling the strip back in toward the log. In #11_03, the wire is completely reeled in—the toggle cinches the ash against the log at a single point. The ash, resisting its capture, billows out dramatically around the cinched point. In #11_02 and #11_01, the ash is more successful at pulling back; where the toggle snags the ribbon it bows out from the log in resistance.
According to Kim’s artist statement, his work speaks about human relationships. It’s tempting to interpret the barn wood and the ash as two individuals and the wire as the force that draws them together into a dynamic relationship, but suppose the barn wood log represents the relationship itself. The wire and both ends of the ash ribbon are all stuffed into this block; it serves as the sculpture’s base and as the source of the narrative. The free, looping section of ash is a fitting image of independent selfhood, resisting the inevitable mooring of relationship. The wire manifests the magnetic force of human connection, tugging the ash back to the place of its birth and extinction. With admirable efficiency, Kim’s sculptures emphasize relationships as fundamental to humanity and to the unique path of the individual.
Kim’s hanging sculptures—round, wooden vessels—touch on the individual’s relationship to a social group. Their content is less veiled, perhaps due to the anthropomorphic quality of the forms, but I enjoy the challenge of the standing sculptures. They are compelling enough on a purely visual level to lure the viewer into deeper engagement, and they reward one’s effort with ample opportunities for the discovery of new meanings.
Johanna Inman’s archival ink jet prints present collections of household items. When I first saw Inman’s statement, along with a few images in a CFEVA newsletter, I imagined her approaching friends or perhaps putting an ad on Craigslist, soliciting eclectic collections from strangers. After examining the 10 photographs on display in person, I began to wonder if Inman collected the items herself. In total, the collections reflect a common curatorial eye. The vast majority of objects are aged and distressed in a similar way, and colorful relative to the objects’ typical nature. Whereas photographs of different individuals’ collections might reflect a variety of personalities, these collections sum up a singular aesthetic and describe a common identity.
For a series explicitly about collections and the act of collecting, there are some missed opportunities. The beauty of a collection built over time is its reflection of the owner’s personal history, and of the common thread of her values. Inman’s pencil collection is exciting for this reason, but as for the others, I’m not convinced they weren’t found wholesale in a vintage shop or antique market. Rather than inspire fascination about the collector’s impulse, the series leaves one wondering if the artist simply gathered her objects for the purpose of photographing them, as a painter searches for still life material.
Formally, the arrangements are expertly composed; each pencil, belt buckle, and hanger gains new worth as a member of a collection and as an indispensible element of Inman’s composition. She further elevates the intrinsically banal objects with a richness in saturated color and textural detail. An overall tone of homage, in combination with the objects’ nearly uniform oldness, produces a note of nostalgia. In the context of today’s increasingly cyber world, the photographs highlight something seductive in our more tactile, mechanical past.
Julia Clift is an artist living and working in Philadelphia. She received her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009, and she is a student of the painter Odd Nerdrum. She currently teaches at Fleisher Art Memorial.