What happens when one becomes many? How do patterns, objects, gestures repeated and systematically arranged, reveal thoughts and ideas that are otherwise invisible? The artists of Ypsi Alloy Studios think they know the answer–or answers–to that question.
They have done their homework, comparing and contrasting different definitions of multiplicity and its implications, each coming up with a satisfying working theory of how this relates to them personally. The artists of the collective share a space, and clearly also share ideas and ways of working while also displaying an intriguing diversity of approach and media. In this thoughtful collection of artworks, the artists work both individually and in collaboration, bouncing ideas and methods off each other. The result of their labors, Emergent Effect, curated by Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson and Jessica Tenbusch, is now on view until January 28 at the Ann Arbor Art Center.
Many of the artists have created meaning through cumulative action in the most direct possible way, fabricating artworks that amount to more than the sum of their parts. Two pieces by Paloma Nunez-Ruguerio exemplify this straightforward approach. One Becomes Many invites gallery visitors to include themselves in the many by writing personal details about themselves on the stickers that make up the installation. The resulting visual effect calls to mind the cells of a beehive. Another Nunez-Reguerio work, entitled 108, is colorful and more lushly decorative than most of the more austere works in the exhibit. Small prints in various colors are repeated and placed in a grid, making a veritable fruit salad of vegetal forms.
Some of the most idiosyncratic yet satisfying work in Emergent Effect is created by Yunhong (Katie) Chang.
Her series Zoo/Joy/Pinwheel/ Whisper/Goodbye features an installation of identical unglazed porcelain plaques that provide grounds for abstract hairline (literally) drawings. Promise, with multiple tiny hanging hair rings encrusted by porcelain slip, suggest precious yet fragile personal relationships.
Elize Jekabson’s sculpture Stacked employs plywood, cut and layered in a way reminiscent of the 3-d printing process to create a kind of anthill-shaped tower. Like many of the pieces in the show, this work refers to both the repetition and addition of forms seen in nature and to industrial ways of making. Works like Jessica Tenbusch’s antler and silver constructions Jaw and Kiss, Wade Buck’s forged steel wishbones (Best of Luck) and Riva Jewell-Vitale’s Fragments depend upon repetition of idiosyncratic natural forms for their considerable visual resonance.
Coming at the question of the one and many from an entirely different direction are the large format photographs of Alexa Borromeo. Too Pussy for Trump features a series of women whose naked bodies provide the canvas for provocative statements on gender and race. Here, once again, societal assumptions are projected onto women’s bodies regardless of their human individuality–a cognitive dissonance that is highlighted in this funny and disturbing collection of images.
Emergent Effect is particularly intriguing for the influences that the individual artists clearly exercise on each other. This talented group displays an emerging sense of shared esthetic interests and some through-lines emerge. I notice in particular a growing emphasis on excellence in craftsmanship, an allegiance to the authenticity of materials and an apparent appetite for repetitious cumulative labor characteristic of natural forms but married to industrial components and processes. Ypsi Alloys Studios continues to develop as an art collective with gifted individual members and a growing sense of shared purpose in its collaborative projects. It will be interesting to see where they go next.
For more information on Ann Arbor At Center and the current exhibit Emergent Effect go here.