Adherents to the Omaha gallery scene and second Friday openings know well that little storefront on Vinton Street. The 400 sq.ft. white box, once known as Darger HQ, currently serves as the Generator Space Gallery for Amplify Arts. The gallery has been home to a wide array of visual art, performance art, music and talks and continues as the venue for Amplify Arts Generator Grant recipients.
If you haven’t been there, it’s a diminutive space, made quite comfortable and inviting by high ceilings and generous applications of white paint on every surface, floor included. Of course, filling it with captivating work doesn’t hurt either. This time around, that task fell on a pair of artists, Sarah Hummel Jones and Erik Daniel White in their collaboration, “i borrow my comparisons from clay, being clay myself.”
Both Jones and White work in the medium of clay, but in wildly differing ways. Jones concocts installations; arrangements of individual, hand-hewn odd little pieces of sculpture. White chooses to be more surreptitious, molding and working his clay “pictures” at home, and then painting images of them for us to enjoy.
Jones presents three or four altar-like installations and a sprinkling of individual offerings around the gallery. These consist of several depictions of food items: bowls and cups and other vessels and various shaped “things.” Set on and against the gallery walls, these items are lined up and arranged both on the wall itself as hanging pieces and on a table-like shelf just below.
The objects themselves are glazed and fired, brightly colored creations. Many of the food items are recognizable and realistic; there are depictions of salted pretzels, fried or poached eggs, nachos and chocolate cake or a “pile” of fettucini. Some, like the pretzels and eggs, are repeated ad nauseum and literally screwed to the wall, and some, like a hyper-real gas-station donut, may call your name (really, do not eat!)
Below are various other items, foods and such. Some are mere suggestions of something, but most are clearly delineated. A couple items touch on the surreal, like a blue challah, or the pair of bare legs protruding from under a chocolate cake, bringing to mind Dorothy’s house atop poor Margaret Hamilton.
Jones chose to be obvious and let the mounting screws show on the wall-mounted food, as if these items were of value only as symbolic kitsch. The items all relate back to fast food, or convenience-store yummies, or over-processed and under-nourishing foodstuffs. She seems to be presenting the convenience store or the processing machine as the raw source of these items, rather than being actual food derive from nature.
Erik Daniel White’s hyper-real, oil-on-linen paintings emphasize the malleable aspect of the clay. The photorealism is artfully employed; the magic of depth and light making the rather plain compositions jump off the surface.
Like most hyper-real painting, detail is crisp, but the subject matter – child-like clay depictions of a car, bird or plane are much less busy than most of this genre seen elsewhere. His portrayal of oil-based clay is spot-on and may even bring back that feeling so present in grade school art class of oily film on your hands and clay under your fingernails. His montages are reminiscent of stills from a Claymation film.
Adding to this visual trickery is the adept use of shadow and the indication of off-scene, tinted, side lighting. This gives the eerie impression of impending doom or at it at least promotes inquiry as to its source. White paints only on the front surface of the stretched linen, leaving the linen bare around the sides. If this two-and three-dimensional conflict does not cause severe consternation, you may already be comatose.
The show is clearly about Western excess and gluttony, the dynamics of commodity and consumption and our reliance on convenience. A little less obvious, maybe, is the malleability of our value judgements regarding the above, nicely portrayed through the choice of material, clay. The two artist’s works complement each other well.
Though the work may be a little sparse, the gallery offered that some items had been allowed to be removed when sold at the opening,) the remainder is still worth a visit. The gallery as it has limited hours, and it is the Holiday season, so be sure to contact Amplify Arts to find out hours.
The show runs through December 20th. The Generator Space is located at 1804 Vinton Street. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday 12pm-5pm. For more info, go to amplifyarts.org.