Walking into NOVA, the first thing that caught my eye was two large, wall sized murals by Von Kommanivanh. The pieces are overwhelming, due to their size and the way the artist handles subject matter. They are dark, dripping, swirling masses of turmoil. Faces and figures look as though they were pulled from mug shots in a newspaper, realistic and individual, yet squashed, smeared, and deadened. The artist is a former graffiti artist and these pieces reflect his view of urban, chaotic environments, taking the idea to an extreme. His murals remind one of a war zone; dirty, dripping red and black. The figures look like criminals or casualties with phrases scrawled and scribbled over them. I don’t always like work like this—scrawling, writhing, messy stuff—but when the style fits the image this well, I do. He also did some temporary tattoos and if I remember I may go get one from Walsh Gallery where they are one sale. The one I want is of a duck.
Michael x. Ryan’s exhibited maps documenting everywhere he went in Chicago from the epicenter of his home with a series of grid-based drawings of stains and such that he would find on the street. These were very subtle, beautiful pieces that made hard evidence of traces that to some may only appear as juice spills or chewing gum residue. I picked my favorite—a drawing of one pop (ed.-soda to those not from the Midwest) stain in particular, painted in green that resembled a map of an island. His elegant work serves to glorify the minutia that is the evidence of a life lived, while his scientific handling of the information keeps the work from being sentimental or overblown.
Sabrina Raaf’s digital photographs were even more impressive. She is working with completely fictional subject matter that transcends boundaries both literally and figuratively. Figures defy gravity as they float, leap, or crouch in domestic settings such as bathrooms and living rooms. I thought the whole concept of the piece was fabulous. Her masterful use of digital manipulation allows her to subtly reinvent the relationships between bodies and the spaces they occupy.
A collaborative installation by Antigravity interested me not so much for its execution but its concept. The piece consisted of a series of paper chains, like one you may have made in grade school, covering a wall. Below were additional pieces of paper, markers and glue, and a sign that read “tell us a secret about your job.” The public was asked to write on the brightly colored construction paper about their job and add their secrets to the chain, each link creating and changing the meaning. Public voice was given to people’s grievances—I Hate My Job” being a key statement seen repeatedly in addition to workplace secrets and scandals.
I had to stop and look at the entries from Brooklyn: particularly the creepy cartoons by Hisao Sakai and Yoshiaki Asai at Lunarbase Gallery and the knockoffs that Eric Doringer made of famous paintings by everyone from Mondrian to John Currin and sold for $40 each—both exhibitions epitomizing the sprit of the NOVA event.