It’s the little things.
Ambedo* Embodied, featuring works by Briel Hughes, Sean Taillefer, Olivia Laeta and Katharine Russell, opens this week in the new gallery space at 13 Bricks.
According to their artist statement, the term ambedo “is a kind of melancholic trance in which life’s simplest details begin to absorb the mind through vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life.”
That’s a mighty definition, but Ambedo* Embodied is unique in that every piece nails it in some way. The pieces show an even split between the first half of the definition, dealing with simple, entrancing details, and the second half, dealing with life’s fragility.
Laeta’s serigraphs portray everyday situations—“Nilufer” shows a person eating in the bathtub, “Kiba” is a dog in a chair—with negative coloring that forces the viewer to fixate on certain points in the image. In “Nilufer,” I can’t stop looking at what’s in the bowl, and I become obsessed with what I think it could be. Spaghetti? Oatmeal? Chinese takeout? The abnormal coloring offers no help, so it feels like a mystery that has to be solved.
Taillefer’s maze installations are hypnotizing and a little daunting. The canvas for “And Think About What You’ve Done” is huge, and the twists and turns are so minuscule it seems like you’ll never find your way out. I size up particular stretches of maze, like one long loop in the center, and consider which patterns might help me escape. Not only am I entranced by this maze, I feel stuck, as though my life depends on getting out of it.
Russell uses Chinese ink and fluid acrylic for her portraits. In “Deconstructed Self Portrait,” only the right half of her face is visible, and the left half explodes into color. The colors are soft and bright, and I wonder what the other half of her face would have looked like. This work more than any other tackles the fragility of life, both through the gentle nature of the painting and through the curiosity at why her face is deconstructed.
Hughes’ portraits on leather use bright oil paints in colors that bring Native American and other indigenous cultures to mind. “Where Is Your True North?” features a woman with long dark hair and a fur cap; “Babushka” is a woman draped in a bright blue shawl with pink and yellow flowers. The portraits are relatively simple and feature few details, but they still evoke a sense of loss and fragility. These cultures have been, for the most part, wiped out, and the juxtaposition of their portraits on an animal hide feels particularly poignant.
This show is psychologically and aesthetically fascinating, and it hangs from May 20 to 22.