LowEnd Theories
Lump Gallery
Through June 28

The investigation of humble craft and lowly materials in service of what is often called high art can be traced to the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, the assemblage works of Bruce Connor, Mike Kelley’s “pathetic” works of the 1980s and, more recently, to Anna Sew Hoy’s macramé and ceramic installations.

Such strategies have become profoundly absorbed in contemporary art vernacular, and LowEnd Theories at Lump Gallery, a group show curated by Tory Wright, demonstrates there is fertile territory yet to be explored along the “low” road.

Greg Rubio‘s “Winter Flowers 1 and 2” are cloth wall hangings, symmetrical mandalas constructed of impoverished fabrics. Geometric shapes of ratty terry cloth, nubby cotton and abused fleece coalesce in cardinal directions that seem to reference Native American iconography. The backstory of these works: They were used as targets by Rubio, shot with arrows and repaired by the artist. Rubio’s project revivifies his materials, bringing them through cycles of redemption, destruction and repair, resulting in works that function as talismanic emblems of transmutation and remediation.

Amanda Barr’s “Small Dream Mountain” is a diminutive ceramic work perched on a raw block of wood. The small black mountain form is decorated with areas of multicolored psychedelia. Barr’s other works on display are cloth wall hangings, both of which use recycled denim and corduroy to render simplified design statements, one of which is titled “Flower Power,” a stylized pattern that sprouts flower forms at the top and bottom of the composition. In these works, Barr recycles cultural idioms as well as materials.

While Molly Schafer and Ryan Swanson‘s works are displayed separately, they consider them to be collaborationsand indeed, they share their materials. Look closely at Swanson’s slick digital collage works and one is rewarded with the echo of patterns, textures and fabrics that appear in Schafer’s mixed-media constructions. Swanson’s “Bad Things,” “Style Monster” and “Rude Host” tend toward the literal, rendering over-the-top visual mash-ups that grapple with their given themes. Schafer’s sculptural statements are more subtle, incorporating materials that range from whitetail deer hide to synthetic hair to the resonant and somehow intimate “swimsuit liner.” Schafer’s materials are harnessed for maximum impact, generating an active tension between their intended purpose and their reincarnations as art.

A hand-painted sign that reads “The Bottle Blonde Bitch @ 638 SE 26th Stole My Artichokes!” is enshrined in Meghan Sullivan‘s “Bottle Blonde,” a cloth wall hanging that sets this outrageous declaration against a landscape rendered in cheerful prints. The source of this intriguing indictment is left to the viewer’s imagination, but Sullivan has managed to deftly incorporate the nature of gossip, subjective experience and the idea of narrative exchange in social networks such as quilting circles in a single smart work.

Kerry Adams‘ work is represented here by two color digital prints that document her “Baltimore Quilt,” a poor man’s Christo in the form of a massive crocheted comforter constructed from found afghans in Baltimore thrift stores, which hangs over and almost fully covers a single brick row house. The Christo reference is only partially apt. The humor of “Baltimore Quilt” is in its rattiness, its feebleness. There is also an impulse of affection and care, a literal sense of blanketing or embracing, which is far from Christo’s wrapped structures that sustain a cool distance. A view of the work from the inside of the building, looking out a window through a fuzzy grid of crocheted yarn, underscores the subjective experience of Adams’ cozy overstructure.

In the center of Lump’s gallery space are Andrea Morris‘ untitled “devices for collecting,” structures of meticulously crocheted white cotton. Each of the works is associated with a given domestic setting: “oak tree,” “downspout,” “under sink.” These delicate yet potent constructions generate a range of associationsheirlooms, infancy, ceremony. Their shapes are mysterious and yet they project intention, even if their function is not readily known. What, indeed, do they collect? Dust? Dirt? Atmosphere? Time? Morris’ project evokes the “dust breeding” engaged in by Duchamp in the creation of his master work “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” and raises questions about all material objects. All objects (including art objects) collect dust, but an object designed for such a purpose suggests a value in dust itself. With this gesture, Morris helps us to look lower than “low,” at the prospect of dust as philosophical and aesthetic currency.

Lump Gallery/ Projects is open Saturdays from noon-5 p.m. and by appointment. Call 821-9999.