If Eyedrum‘s current 20-artist group show, “Crop Circles, Cosmograms, Psychogeographies” aims at eclecticism, it certainly achieves it. In an unlikely gambit, a disparate range of styles are united by an equally broad, multi-part theme loosely inspired by UFOs.
Thankfully, the show comes with a catalog (funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation) to help put each work into context. Vandorn Hinnart’s Elements, for example, cites classical geometry, Platonic solids, and the golden mean. The piece may lack the pizazz of other works, but it fills its floor-to-ceiling space with an assertive, elegant confidence.
Compare Hinnart’s entry to these black light designs by Charles Freeman, aka Brother Boko. Welcome to the Epilepsy Room!
While I’m sure the panel at left is, stylistically, an interpretation of the Chinese I Ching, Boko’s op art designs are allegedly based on “real” crop circles. The statement seems doubtful, on more than one level, but hey, why not?
The setup embraces a kind of carnivalesque fancy that, by inviting the viewer to put on some goofy 3D specs, gives us a moment to drop our guard. I spent a lot more time in this room than I thought I would. The glasses really do add a nice effect, which of course, you can’t capture with a hand-held camera.
And then we plunge deeper into the world of pseudoscience. I wasn’t present for the demonstration, but these vertical poles are fully functional, homemade electromagnets.
Identifying herself as both an artist and a trained scientist, Katy Malone sets up an experiment to study the effects of electromagnetism on “the probability of UFO sightings.” Digital screens monitor Eyedrum’s exterior, while tablets of data document air conditions and other variables on-site.
As a trained scientist I take issue with the methodology of these studies. The papers, reflective of the author’s obsession, rarely leave room for the original hypothesis to be disproved . . . Nevertheless, the sheer passion and intricate work put into the ‘research’ cannot be denied, and that is what fascinates me—the fine line between true scientific pursuit and the overwhelming desire to prove a belief that comes out of sheer faith.
This was one of my favorites, but I wonder if there’s a way to, physically, flesh out the concept a little more.
Other pieces interpret themes peripheral to crop circles, including a circle as a map of a psychological interior. Visually, Tom Zarilli’s bed plays with the viewer, enticing us to invade the artist’s privacy and experience his childhood recollection. Here’s an excerpt from his statement:
We are displaced by the memories and icons of locales of the past melded into our current understanding. I grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, a political entity that is now non-existent. Since leaving there over 40 years ago, I have been haunted by dreams of still being there.
The installation incorporates vintage maps, a decoy iguana, and children’s book paraphernalia reminiscent of “story time” at the local library. The puzzle invites us to peer underneath and from all sides.
Brian Hitselberger’s piece uses the metaphor of “navigating by the stars” to illustrate the process of getting through a rough time in life. It reminds me of the “Flat Earth woodcut,” which despite its look, may have been completed in the 19th century and not the 12th.
These more personal pieces succeed by transmitting the show’s nebulous theme through lived experience, effectively bringing the discussion back “down to Earth.”
Other works, which unfortunately include most of the two-dimensional images, take a more literal route. This piece by David Lynch struggles in too many directions at once. “Crop Circles” seems hindered by the urge towards mysticism, at times waxing the more speculative realms of New Age. Sometimes “eccentric” does not equal “deep.”
But then Sean Beeching saves us with humor. These vaguely Japanese panels form a fortune telling system called The Minatory Zodiac. No matter which “sign” the spinning wheel chooses, your fortune is unsavory at best. The tongue-in-cheek captions were a nice addition.
The Minatory Zodiac connects to Anne Cox’s tribute to the spirit of New Orleans in the face of disaster. As the catalog informs us, the etymology for “disaster” is linked to the idea of a “bad star.”
Fortunately, there’s enough substance here to balance the many competing drives, elevating the whole out of a virtual schizophrenia. “Crop Circles” pulls off an entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful variety show.
* Photos marked with an asterisk were taken by Ben Grad. “Crop Circles, Cosmograms, Psychogeographies” will continue in Eyedrum’s main gallery until Sat. Nov. 29.