January 3, 2009

Second thoughts: Archeology of Wonder at Real Art Ways in Hartford

RAW's Director of Visual Arts, Kristina Newman-Scott's first curatorial effort, "Archeology of Wonder," aims to examine the way we use artifacts and art to approach our relationships to the past. Although any overall coherence to this particular theme is elusive, many of the disparate, individual objects and installations resonate and have the power to move. My favorite piece is Tom Bogaert's "Collines au Mille Souris," a giant pile of black licorice mice teeming into a pointy mound formation on the floor. The artist's statement overreaches by describing it as an exploration of "rudderless third-world humanity impulsively acting out ancient ritual blood feuds," but seen as a metaphor for childhood play and angst, it's an effective, amusing piece. Posting each artist's statement next to his or her work serves to muddy Newman-Scott's already unfocused thematic conceit rather than strengthen and support it. In the NY Times, Ben Genocchio suggests that there's a "collective strangeness to the works in this exhibition, some of which defy an easy explanation." I'd say the strangeness lies in the curatorial opacity rather than in the individual objects. The show presents, for the most part, engaging, thoughtful work, and despite the tenebrous thesis, was worth a trip to Hartford.

At Connecticut Art Scene, Hank Hoffman opts to ignore Newman-Scott's angle, and takes a look at each artist individually. "It is a worthy metaphor around which to organize a show. But it can also be a distraction. Given the multiplicity of ideas and media offered here, trying to consider the works through any one given frame seems a mistake. So I'm not going to."

"Archeology of Wonder," organized by Kristina Newman-Scott. Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. Through Sunday, Jan. 4. Closing reception 3-5 pm. Artists include Elia Alba, Tom Bogaert, Julia Brown, Brian Burkhardt, Harriet G. Caldwell, Chad Curtis, Valerie Garlick, Heather Hart, Jennifer Knaus, Simone Leigh, Brian Lund, Justin McAllister, Sally B. Moore, Julia Gail Oldham, Javier Piñón, and Yuko Suzuki. The excellent RAW web site has links to all the artists' work.

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