You might say that the impulse to collage and re-assemble objects is a symptom of an intelligence that recognizes and cherishes the fact that the vocabularies with which we read and understand the visual world are capable of being infinitely deconstructed and re-composed; that reconfiguring the bits and pieces of disparate phenomena is a way of celebrating their ephemeralness. Alchemy represents the collaged work of thirteen artists from all around the country and packs in a wallop of wonderful work, dizzying in its different assemblage styles and profuse talent. Curator Suzanne Sbarge chose the title of this show with the governing idea that the very process of collaging different elements enacts a collective transformation of individual parts that have been first collected and then brought together to effect some kind of magical assimilation. Sbarge stipulated that all the work be handcrafted, the products of traditional techniques without recourse to digital techniques. Thus, the viewer is keenly aware of the gathering of materials that is behind the assemblages, as in Ann Dunbar's meticulous, color-themed groupings of various objects, each grouping presented somewhat like a Cabinet of Curiosity. Though rather than being repositories of archeological relics and geological artifacts, these highly organized collections of homely oddities include-as in the green-themed That Doggie in the Window-old-fashioned plastic hair curlers, playing cards, buttons, spools of thread, and those little round paper discs that used to sit on the caps of milk bottles. An all-red composition entitled Good Luck Fortune resembles a highly fanciful, whacky pinball machine. Santa Fe artist Andrea Volkoff-Senutovitch's Reliquary Ship is a child-sized sailing vessel coated in sheet music, its sails crafted of X-ray sheets. The artist, a collector of antiques and exotic objects, has described herself as a storyteller, and this ship on wheels looks fit to launch the made-up adventures of Baron Munchausen. Larry Stokes's lapidarylandscapes are visionary dream worlds that are transcendent versions of the one we already know; the geographies might be made up, but they are definitely convincing. Red Roofs, a paper collage, is both strange and profoundly familiar to the eye in the way a Jorge Luis Borges story might sound to the ears. Miriam Wosk's mostly huge pieces are richly obsessive, proliferating abundances of beads, rhinestones, exotic wallpapers, maps, old anatomical charts, and sequins (to name a few of the elements) that have all been fashioned with an astonishing degree of meticulous and painstaking precision. Once you enter one of these surreal tableaux, as in Big Red, a paper collage with crystals attached to a natural history chart, you're in for a long, absorbing ride. Holly Roberts continues to attach her black-and-white photo fragments to painted, abstract landscapes, and this show's baffling and oddly humorous pieces feature snake cut-outs.
In the upstairs gallery, an outstanding show of drawings entitled Snap Crackle Pow! features the work of bright, young talents, all from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Curator Kathryn M. Davis originally conceived of this show as an exploration of the practice of drawing among boys, a bonding activity that is at least in part a natural outgrowth of growing up with cartoons, pop art, and comic books. Then, as she writes in her essay that is included in the catalogue for this show, Davis wondered if Allen Ginsberg's concept of the "boy gang" as a social grouping that effectively promotes the art-making activities of its members had perhaps become a little outdated. So Davis's original intention was expanded to include the drawings of two women, which in itself reflects the changing times: girls are enamored of graphic arts and they conceive of superheroes in their own image, and they draw too.
Luke Dorman drew To the Land Wandering, a six-foot-by-ten-foot, site-specific installation, directly onto the wall of the gallery. He has drawn himself as Cain leading a band of fellow wanderers off to settle a new city where, for better or worse, they will establish themselves in a place where their needs and desires will finally be realized, or not. Evidence of these desires are banana peels, a crushed soda can, bones, a hypodermic needle, coins, an empty booze bottle, grapes, sexy babes, and babies. The artist has said that he and his friends grew up drawing the forbidden objects of their desires (girls and power fantasies) and this mural depicts the grown-up version of these ongoing desires, both physical and otherwise. One character in this motley procession has a crow's head (traditionally, a symbol of murderous intent) and there's a palm frond by the wayside, a symbol of immortality. Maureen Burdock's contributions are all pieces from The F Word Art: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century, part of a graphic novel series. While stylistically these works resemble the work of R. Crumb, Burdock's sensibility is considerably more enlightened and sophisticated: her super-heroine's exploits speak of both humor and a capacity and will to exercise goodness in the world at large.
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