Contrary to first impressions, the object-based artworks in “Baloonlagoon” are not sculptures, according to artist Laila Kouri. Arguing that even the most abstract paintings have illusionistic qualities—such as color space or the presence of the artist via the brushstroke—Kouri seeks to bypass such trickery by using three-dimensional objects in a painterly manner. If, in the wake of 1960s Minimalism, painting is seen as a literal object, there is a perverse sort of logic in declaring objects to be paintings.
Counterintuitive as these ideas may seem, “Baloonlagoon” presents a compelling case. Kouri [a graduate student of mine at SCAD in 2013] arranges found objects the way a more traditional painter arranges brushstrokes. Most striking is the way these works occupy space: these are “paintings” that demand to be viewed from all angles, as would a sculpture. The exhibition seems less about mass and volume than about drawing. Of the eight works here, all but two are linear and open, puncturing and clarifying space with three-dimensional lines—brushstroke equivalents, according to Kouri—rather than inhabiting space as a mass or solid shape.
“Baloonlagoon” manages to be visually and spatially engaging, while creating a number of interestingly problematic questions about the relationship between medium and artist intent. As the vaudeville saying goes, “always leave the audience wanting more,” and I look forward to seeing where Kouri pushes these ideas in the future.
“Baloonlagoon” is on view at the LOW Museum through May 24.
Jason Hoelscher is a painter, educator, and writer based in Savannah, Georgia.