Currently on exhibit at the VCU
Anderson Gallery, Strange Attractors features a mid-career
retrospective of artist Heide
Fasnachtís work. The exhibit showcases the artistís
wide range of techniques from drafting to sculpture, but presents
the work as a recognizable whole. The pieces included all focus
on the artistís interest in biological or astronomical phenomena
and suggest that there is a great deal of similarity between
these two seemingly unrelated subject matters.
The first works presented in the show, R.E.M. I-VI.
immediately reminded me of diagrams of constellations. The
artist erases away or physically punctures the paper to create
a system of randomly spaced dots and then connects them with
precise, straight lines. This technique suggests that the artist
is trying to make some kind of organization out of a chaotic
mess, and sets up the theme for the rest of the pieces in the
gallery. The title, R.E.M. probably alludes to Rapid
Eye Movement, the state of dreaming. This may be the artistís
way of telling the viewer that through our dreams, a sort of
biological anomaly, we can inhabit the stellar world that is
out of our reach when conscious.
From there, Fasnacht continues to compare the biological to
the physical sciences. Her three pieces included that feature
the sneeze demonstrate this by the obviously precise way she
has depicted the completely erratic act of a sneeze. In two
of the pieces, she has burned holes in the paper, similar to
R.E.M., at first glance the dots and holes all seem to
be placed at random intervals with no care for their position.
At a closer glance, however, the viewer can plainly see the
evidence of pencil marks around the holes. This would suggest
that Fasnacht has considered the order of her holes to some
extent and can extend to the theme of her show. She is demonstrating
that there can be no random act, that even in apparent chaos,
some organization exists.
Fasnachtís work is unique in its concept and aesthetic, and
I really enjoyed stepping into her chaotic/ordered world for
a few minutes. The organization of the exhibit however, detracts
from her work and I felt I would have seen the progression of
her ideas better, if the work were presented in an other fashion.
The whole retrospective is housed in one square room, than when
the visitor enters, he or she can already see all the work hanging
on the walls at once. The space available at the Anderson Gallery
is perhaps not conducive to anything other than how the curators
have arranged the pieces, but the work would be all the more
powerful with some changes.
The pieces should be shown one at a time, so that the viewer
can fully internalize the concepts of one and see it progress
to the end. The small prints in the R.E.M. series are
a bit over shadowed by the Sneeze exploding from the
adjacent wall, but their draft-like qualities are nonetheless
crucial to understand the energy and force of the Sneezes
and the Clusters that are immediate attention grabbers.
Fasnachtís fascinating point does come across, but only after
the viewer has sifted through the works displayed and ordered
them in their mind.
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