Before the Word
Not the Running Type
Cheryl Wilgren Clyne and Kimberly Tschida Petters
at Rosalux Gallery
through July 29th.
1101 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55415
Hours: Tue-Thu 12-8, Fri-Sun 12-5
The uncontroversial exploitation of children in contemporary art â€“ to evoke Hobbesian savagery or to celebrate the myth of prelapsarian innocence â€“ create suspicion whenever I’m confronted with a subject too small to ride the Timberland Twister. Yet this astute and restrained show doesn’t wander into the clichÃ©s that plague most kiddie art.
It might be oversimplifying to say that Not the Running Type is a show about children at all. But even with only half of the work by one of its two artists explicitly depicting an infant, the show centers on infantile observations and assertions about infancy. While an artist may use children to indicate twee self-deprecation, as a winking embrace of tradition, or to compare her own sensibility to that of a precocious child, Clyne’s child muse is unmolested by such bad faith. Plainly terrifying but real, naÃ¯ve and complex, Running presents fragments of nascent intellect offered up for the contemplation of your afternoon.
As hung, the conversation among Petters blocky landscapes and Clyne’s more various works is both elemental and profound. Petters’ large oil pastels fill the top floor with blocky abstraction, while Clyne’s mixed media installations turn the basement into an eerie rumpus room.
On the main floor, the blending of the artists’ work at first appears illegible. Here, Clyne’s non-representational ink and paper works hang next to some coolly colored landscapes by Petters, saturated with gummy oil crayon. A video of clouds fades by on the back wall. Tucked behind a stairwell, a photograph of a sleeping child is swathed in ballpoint scribbling. These last scratches â€“ a motif in much of Clyne’s work â€“ evoke her preoccupation with the mysterious transmutation of babble into language.
Below, the video installation “Where Two Between” suggests this passage into verbal potency as a birth from pure light. The child, poised between the living and dead worlds, is like a messenger with an indecipherable message. The beginning of language rises up, as though the timeline of consciousness were one of Petters’ horizons, with both ends dipping under the surface of the water.
My comparison is warped, however, because Petters’ Horizons are sometimes sloped, sometimes horizontal, but always straight. Abstracted to pure form, they are dividing lines between two half sheets of color. Piles of rocks in her “Stacking” series suggest corporeal evidence of mindless work â€“ towers of babble or of Babel. As in Clyne’s work, the paintings seem to indicate energetic, mindless play and the development of work.
Clyne offers an escape from all these becomings in her still images of watery surfaces and bright skies. Familiar, serene and intact, they appear here as drowning pools for uncomfortable consciousness, escapes backward through infancy to peace of mind.