See this now: Emily Connell’s Vade Mecum at Kiosk

Kiosk Gallery’s front room has been transformed into a kind of fossilized library, with evidence of a made-up lost world set on pedestals and displayed along the walls. The pieces range from blocks depicting weighty tomes, their bindings forever split wide, to the cross-sectioned pages revealing (or not) abstract narratives. Emily Connell’s art here reinterprets a common phrase: even an “open book” retains certain inaccessible mysteries.

Specifically, in Connell’s exhibition Vade Mecum — now in its final weekend — words are gone, but the skeletal remains of the information tell us something about the character of each text. 

Black, feathered pages embedded in white Hungarian porcelain balance the lightness of the folio with the historical and literal weight of Connell’s chosen materials. In “La Sacra Bibbia (Italian Holy Bible),” only the charred ashes remain, leaving behind a shadowy plume of a once-sacred text. Layers of black, flakey pages retain their shape only through the rigidity of the porcelain block around it, giving the impression that the residue of the book would crumble on its own.

There’s also the splayed-out “Hungarian Chemistry Pocket Book,” whose completely circular containment sets it apart from the fanned-open religious texts that share its pedestal. Edges of the bibles glint with gold, a sensitive narrative touched with precious metal, but the chemistry book is self-contained, independent as an idea and a movement. “Hungarian Chemistry Pocket Book” isn’t so precious as to endure the same ornamental burden the bibles bear, but such is science to religion.

Connell’s Catholic upbringing serves in Vade Mecum as a jumping-off point, and the works here show an artist inspired to swim deeper. With this show, she offers us a cross-section of the tensions between belief and the construction of art outside the rituals of worship. The result is a clever examination of the hazards of rigid adherence to historical or religious texts. 

The show is on view from noon to 6 p.m. today and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday (and then by appointment through April 7) at Kiosk Gallery, 916 East Fifth Street,