Bottoms Up

The Dolphin’s last exhibition in its old Crossroads gallery was a wild and cacophonous ride, but the first exhibition in its new West Bottoms space is a quiet and calm affair.

With a minimalist installation that deliberately highlights the interior, On Liberty is a small group exhibition in two galleries with 13 of the Dolphin’s artists. Obviously a play on words, the title suggests the new address, the freedom in breaking from old ways, and perhaps a short disquisition in an election year.

Only a couple of the works seem specifically political and even then ambiguously so. Archie Scott Gobber’s “Changeable” is a typically witty visual and textual examination of language and its myriad meanings. The work is a shape shifter. Painting the word on canvas, Gobber has altered it so that “Change” and “Able” are accented differently through font and color, suggesting that we might really be capable of making a change. In an election cycle, the word seems especially charged.

Small vignettes of abstraction transverse the center of James Brinsfield’s physically dark “Good Citizenship.” Against a background rendered mostly in black, Brinsfield concentrates the action in blocky shapes that stutter across the painting. That sense of deliberate narrative — the boxes and title suggest monitors or voting centers for me — lends the painting another texture.

David Ford’s “Avoid Hell” is beautiful yet feels dangerous. Seductively painted in light pastels, this wide-open landscape with a cloudy blue sky also seems toxic. In places, a gray sooty film darkens the sky, and the yellow in the land seems almost unctuous and gooey. Like Gobber, Ford delves into the multiple and simultaneous meanings of pictures, things and words — he has painted the titular phrase into the work.

In the largest of the galleries, delicate yet monumental pieces by Ke-Sook Lee and Anne Lindberg activate the space. Lee’s towering “Apron #9” is a gigantic installation gently dominating her part of the gallery. On translucent textile fragments that look like irregular, tea-stained circles, she hand-stitches leaves, spirals, shells and other abstracted images. Lee calls to mind the pioneering work of Beverly Semmes, whose monumental dresses and other garments commented on the power of clothing, sexuality and femininity. Here, the effect is as conceptually strong but more ghostly and delicate than Semmes’ heavy, sculptural dresses — perhaps more evocative of the gossamer effect in Korean artist Do-Ho Suh’s silk houses, which referred to his own physical home and the textile work of Korean seamstresses. Lindberg, meanwhile, mines familiar terrain in “Storm.” Also a large work, Lindberg creates a storm of graphite marks: dense and thick in the middle and lighter on the sides.

Photography shines here. Mike Sinclair’s work is familiar, enigmatic, atmospheric, and specific as to time and place. His chromogenic print “Grey House, Liberal, Kansas” depicts a small and aged house, plain with an almost Shaker simplicity except for the covered air conditioner in the window. The gray sky echoes the gray house, sidewalk, curb and street, while the light snow underlines the cold. Jeremiah Ariaz’s C-print “Fall (Lat. 43.106 Long. -79.054)” is a study in color, illusion and texture. A vine stands out against a painted wall; both seem to exist independently of each other, yet the tension between the vine’s dimensionality and the painted wall’s flatness keeps the eye moving across the dynamic image.

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