Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rachel David at Coup, Mitchell Lonas at Bienvenu

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It's the dog days of summer. Evening lows bottom out at 80 degrees and the sky's the limit for the highs. Most people try to stay air-conditioned. Rachel David heads for her blacksmith forge where metal is heated until it glows red--hotter than Hades--and yields to the persuasion of blunt instruments. A bon vivant workaholic, David is better known than her art, but that should change with her first solo show at Coup, an agglomeration of delicately poetic heavy metal baroque dadaism with the occasional art nouveau flourish. Although there are some useful objects like tables and picture frames (with collaborative photos and woodwork by Jayme Kalal and Jesse Stotzfus), the metal sculptures are the main course here. The title piece, MOUTH ENVIRONMENT, top (detail), is a wall-mounted bas relief with elaborate filigree and surface effects including scallops like eye sockets, mouths, or orifices for unknown biological functions, and the effect is somehow simultaneously medieval, art nouveau and extraterrestrial. Many of the freestanding sculptures such as TETHERED (above right) allude to this city’s pervasively sinewy vines and botanical life. Stylistically they fall somewhere between Belle Epoque Paris and THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but in David’s hands the effect is organic, holistic, and often elegant. And if it’s hard to know exactly what she’s doing, it’s fair to say that she does it thoroughly,  arduously, and with a finely wrought flair. 
    Although he also works in metal, Mitchell Lonas’ WRENCH SERIES is very different indeed. Inspired by swallows’ nests found in the Smoky Mountains, Lonas developed a technique for delicately incising painted metal with abrasives to achieve a similarly gossamer effect in the creation of his own series of nests. Shimmering like fiber optics, they challenge the viewer to provide his or her own answers to what is real and what is illusion, what is nature and what is artifice, what is life and what is art. ~Bookhardt
Rachel David: MOUTH ENVIRONMENT
Through Sept. 25
Coup d' oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876; www.coupdoeilartconsortium.com
Mitchell Lonas: THE WRENCH SERIES
Through Sept. 25
Gallery Bienvenu 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com