Sunday, October 16, 2016

Audra Kohout at Soren Christensen

Astrology is an approximate science that relies on poetic license, but its art world parallels are striking. Scorpio is identified with the mysteries of the psyche, and many of the most psychologically intense artists including Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte and Francis Bacon were born under the Halloween sign. You can add Audra Kohout to that list. Her Treasure Things expo extends her role as a visionary of dark fairy tales for mature audiences, a talent facilitated by her way with visual innuendo. Her subjects can initially recall storybook characters, but then they draw you into their complex little worlds and may even reappear in your dreams. Typically cobbled from vintage doll parts and derelict objects--things once coveted but then cast aside--they live in the shadow realms of the psyche where they radiate the wayward electricity of objects long unrelated but suddenly united into unlikely new creatures.

We see this in works like Chariot, above, where sled dogs with doll heads pull the skeletal husk of a carriage bearing an armless but militant woman in a spiked helmet. Twin figures are common in voudou, but Kohout's protagonists often reflect the more northern European sensibilities seen in Sibling Rivalry, where youthful Nordic royals in horned helmets, top left, stare quizzically out at a world they no longer recognize--just as a box sculpture, Happily Ever After, left, also reflects an ironic northern baroque post- Grimm sensibility. Similarly, Jezebel is a bust of a haughty fairy tale stepmother whose toxic sense of entitlement evokes  everyone inclined to blame the victim — here perhaps The Woodman, a nearby sculpture of a downcast paraplegic lad with leprechaun ears. A collar and chain enables him to be dragged around on his wheeled dolly, and his feral Celtic aura is a reminder that the English once treated the Irish like slaves before branching out into Africa, Asia and the Americas. But most of these works reflect the subtler dualities of human nature and the propensity of some to dominate others, benignly or not, for reasons that remain mysterious and paradoxical, elusive if not eternal. Treasure Things: Collage, Installations and Works on Paper by Audra Kohout, Through Oct. 29, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569.9501.