Sunday, February 1, 2009

ANTIABECEDARIANS: A Group Show of Telekinesis Proxenators in Franca Lingua

The name Antiabecedarians is taken from a literary cult noted in James Joyce's novel Finnegan's Wake, and it sets an appropriately poetic tone for this unusual expo of work by 32 alternative artists. Curated by Myrtle von Damitz, whose beautifully convoluted paintings are emblematic, it marks a rare gathering of a subculture I like to think of as the performance artists of daily life in what amounts to a kind of fringe festival of gallery art. Von Damitz's paintings, such as Watch Out For Prudence, above, meld the notion of a cultural underground with a vision that could also hark to Hecate, the Greek goddess of the underworld.

Delaney Martin's A Diamond is Forever is one of the strongest pieces. The chandelier-like form with massive but fragile swatches of wax hanging from it is a memorial to her recently departed grandmother and a meditation on impermanence and the cycles of life. Anna Powell's detailed, realistically painted portraits of local shotgun houses radiate the aura of their human history, while Rose Willow McBurney's human portraits seem to express the psychic architecture of the body.

Chesley Allen's haunting painting of a nude on an ice floe with a slain mer-doe takes the term "ice princess" back to the realm of myth, and Allison Termine's landscape Shelter evokes the delicacy of Japanese scroll painting. This stands in contrast to the only real scroll paintings in the show, the work of Taylor Lee Shephard, whose Cyclograph — a construction of polished wood, a hand crank and gears — powers a continuous scroll of bird-men in a snake dance of Native American mythology.

Kourtney Keller's Waitless, a video of a woman doing yoga-like handstands projected on a feather, epitomizes something of the mystery, magic and symbolism so much of this show seems to be about. Beyond all that, Antiabecedarians is a lot of fun, a blessed relief from the overly academic work that has come to dominate certain art capitals in recent decades. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Through Feb. 8

Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave., 525-2767;

No comments: