In “Elemental Forces,” currently on view at Krowswork, Oakland artist Suzy Poling distorts meanings of nature and artifice as she blends disparate mediums as well as the cosmos and the terrestrial. Continuing her exploration into growth, mutation and decay from a similar exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center of Portland while participating in Josephine Zarkovich’s curatorial residency late last year, Poling’s exhibition at Krowswork re-presents these objects within another space, while excavating strange and intriguing layers of meaning in the aftermath of when these worlds collide. Spanning video, photography, collage, sound, sculptural installation, painting, and even performance, Poling’s artwork aims to unite the physical and psychical chemistry of light.
The exhibition is marked by distinctive bodies of work that all examine the particular (perhaps peculiar?) intersection of nature, science, and technology. “Humans and Stones,” comprised of a group of photos and an absolutely captivating video, calls attention to the rhythms and cycles of the Earth interacting with her painterly endeavors. Poling acutely parallels the raw, fundamentals of paint with foundational elements of nature in the powerful video in the gallery’s Pew Room where black and white powders, fluids, and paints slowly drips from above– audiences observe how the blobs expand and shrink as they hit rock, sand, and skin. Set to an ambient, meditative kind of music, the work takes on the grandeur and solemnity of an archaic ritual.
In the main room, “Chemical Landscapes” and “Subdivised Landscapes,” two series of ink jet prints crafted from still images of films chronicling Poling’s paintings intriguingly explore the relationship between seemingly disparate mediums. Most obvious is Poling’s intricate and thoughtful layering of materials, a process of disintegration and re-assimilation by rhythms of a greater pattern. Poling’s two film pieces clearly present her examination into opposing impulses. “Seers Unseen,” where a figure emerges from water while covered by a multi-color veil, both parallels and contrasts with “Humans and Stones” in the Pew Room, where a human figure is engaged, reverently silent, smearing black and white paint on its body as it drips from above.
Multi-colored lights in the “Elemental Forces” installation room illuminate hanging geometric objects, “tangible metonyms for our connection to the magical transformations of life within the systematized order of space.” Guy Debord and the Situationist’s theories of psychogeography resonate loudly within this space: its mystical significance realized in a relationship between what minimalist elements exist within the space as well as the audience’s perception and emotional relationship to the surroundings. Refractions of light and color between the disks hanging from the walls obfuscate the dimensions and limitations of the darkened room. Looking down at the masks on the floor, one’s own reflection returns the glance. No longer simply observers of Poling’s efforts to reverberate her surroundings, audiences are impelled to engage with the environment.
Suzy Poling, “Elemental Forces” will be at Krowswork through March 30, 2013.