Patrick Quinn's Review of "Insect/Mammal" in Art & Cake
Insect / Mammal: A Two-Artist Show at Coagula Curatorial
Through October 13
By Patrick Quinn
A two-man show called Insect/Mammal featuring sculptures of insects and drawings of mammals sounds pretty straight forward. However, that’s not the kind of show gallery owner Mat Gleason has curated. These are two career artists presenting strong bodies of work that stand alone and yet complement each other. And yes, there are both insects and mammals.
In the middle of the room is a large doughnut-shaped table with an open access point so guests can stand in the center. The table’s clean curved lines and shiny white surface are vaguely reminiscent of a Cold-War era flying saucer. Whether or not the effect is intentional, it adds to the other-worldly appearance of Paul Paiement’s work.
The sixteen insects on display are referred to as Hybrids CS (ceramic sculpture). The conceptual premise is based on Max Wertheimer’s theories of visual perception and gestalt psychology. At its core, this theory explores the boundaries between what we believe to be factual and what is fictitious. At first glance, each one of these remarkable ceramics does appear to be a colorful but common every-day bug. But take a closer look, and that’s when things get interesting. Paiement describes them in the press release, “Upon further inspection, the viewer discovers that they are actually techno gadgets posing as bugs. Molds of hand-held techno devices such as Bluetooth speakers, Gameboy controllers and vibrators used for sexual gratification, are just some of the found objects used as a base for the finished sculpture. The gadgets are then cast in clay and porcelain. Using acrylic, the artist transforms the gadgets by painting them to resemble various insect forms such as beetles, wasps, moths and butterflies.”
The final results are visually appealing, culturally intriguing, and really, kind of cool.
Hanging on all four walls are paintings and drawings by local artist Abel Alejandre. The series is called Constructed Monsters. These are highly detailed works that explore the notion of masculinity and power. In the past, the artist has used the rooster as a metaphor for manhood. In this particular case, he uses the wolf. The analogy is apt since these are men who hunt in packs; powerful men in dark suits who prowl boardrooms and hunt by the glow of a lit cigar. One wall is dominated by nine portraits called The Board Members. Nine old men, their faces deeply lined and hair well groomed, stare into oblivion. Each one could be a judge or a president and curiously, one is a dead ringer for Abe Lincoln. They may be men, but they are also mammals with their simian features exaggerated to reveal the beast inside.
Alejandre explains, “I’ve spent some time examining the concept of masculinity, manhood, and codes of conduct through the lives of men in my life. At this stage, I’ve come across no definitive answers, and seek only to record, to interpret, a lifetime of observation.”
It’s a strong collection of work, and combined with Paul Paiement’s Hybrids, makes for a show well worth seeing.