Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bowers at May; Childers and Brunious at UNO St. Claude

You are being watched. Whether it's the National Security Agency, Google or Facebook, our  every move is electronically stalked. This pervasive digital surveillance apparatus is known as Big Data and is the subject of Susan Bowers new clay sculpture show at May. Clay is a very traditional medium, but Bowers' head sculptures of zombie-like FBI guys in shades perfectly evoke Big Data's paranoia-inducing omnipresence. Encircling an installation that resembles a surreal evidence locker filled with mutant clay beasts, haunted appliances and giant hypodermic needles, these FBI guys come across like virtual investigators ready to seize your phone and email records at a moment's notice. The clay objects they guard suggest a digital Dr. Frankenstein's attempt to create diabolical alternate reality where the world around us is constantly mutating, so mass disorientation reigns. In other words, it's a metaphor for the digitally and genetically engineered world we inhabit today. Bowers may have struck a nerve.

Jason Childers' plethora of neatly framed drug and grocery store receipts arranged floor to ceiling at the UNO Gallery suggests an intention to ennoble the ordinary, or maybe a hoarder's last ditch attempt to clean up his act. Reminiscent of certain old time conceptual art tropes, this mostly works, perhaps because Walgreens and Rouses receipts are something we can all relate to. Wendell Brunious' nearby jazzily colorful abstract canvases like Shock Wave, above, or Broken Sky, below, deploy familiar pop art references in the form of vintage advertising graphics and comic strip figures mingled with complex painterly geometry. Rendered in bright, brisk colors reminiscent of 1960s pop culture, these sliced and diced compositions also recall the way 21st century technology seems to turn everything into a replica of itself, like digital ghosts haunting the global electronic echo chamber. Underlying all this is a chromatic compositional flair like a kind of latter day visual bebop, urban rhapsodies cobbled from colorful scraps of everyday life. ~Bookhardt

Triptix: Ceramics by Susan Bowers, through March 8, May Gallery, Suite 105, 2839 N. Robertson Street, 316-3474; Peripheral Recognition: Sculpture by Jason Childers, Influxx: Paintings by Wendell Brunious, Through March 2, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493.  
Left: Broken Sky by Wendell Brunious