Art Reviews in Less Than Half an Hour

The 60 Wrd/min Art Critic seemed to like what she saw in Knoxville—and she saw a lot

Art critic Lori Waxman, who has written for Artforum and The Believer, visited the Art Gallery of Knoxville on April 4-6 to present on-the-spot written reviews of work by local artists in 20 minutes or less. Waxman, who was assisted in Knoxville by receptionists Katie Ries, Veronica Siehl, and Aaron McIntosh, has conducted these critiques/performances, known as the 60 Wrd/min Art Critic, in Chicago and New York. Here are a few of the three dozen reviews Waxman wrote. All 36 reviews are available here.

Cindy Latham

Never much of a video game player, I nevertheless want to shoot up the flying rhinestones of Cindy Latham’s animation, “We Traveled So Far.” Self-possessed and endlessly multiplying, they travel the world in search, presumably, of consumers to take down. Much like the global trade in gems, among other goods, they crisscross the ocean with ease, finding their way into the suburban American home. Pointing up the ills of consumption is no small feat, and Latham has chosen to do it with a tricky, difficult bag of tools, among them abstracted I-beams, grids, and other geometric forms that connote construction booms and raw materials. Sometimes these are drawn, sometimes animated into alternately obscure or more direct scenarios. Hitting one over the head with an anti-consumerist message just won’t do, as Latham clearly senses; but it remains to be seen if her more distanced, graphic tactics can succeed where didacticism is sure to fail.

Sarah Shebaro

Music today takes the digital seriously and thoroughly, a state of affairs left out of Sarah Shebaro’s decidedly analog exploration of the connections between music and visual art. Hers is a practice that trips back to the days of LPs and cassette tapes, but rather than present them for their sounds she mines them for their physical materiality, using empty cassette cases as frames, the graphic expansiveness of record sleeves as found background surfaces, the wood-paneled blackness of old speakers as sculptural monuments. It’s a practice that makes something special of the everyday and familiar, enshrining doodly Daily Drawings by framing them in the aforementioned plastic cases, finding inspiration in the tacky covers of albums no one listens to any longer. There’s a paradox to Shebaro’s presentation of musical remnants for their visual rather than aural qualities, but one far easier to grasp than that other paradox, the one where a dancer dances about architecture—and a writer writes about art.

Ken Gruber

The subjects of Ken Gruber’s painted scenes—from sexy mermaid and bewinged He-Man warrior to thorn-wearing Jesus, dapper Phantom of the Opera, and strutting cowboy—seem at first unrelated. But cacophonous as they might be, they reveal the fantastic themes at work in the mind of a man incarcerated behind bars, where the power of the imagination can play one of its most notable, radical roles. The pieta forms a recurrent theme, structuring pictures of not just Mary and Baby Jesus, but also the grown Jesus and a young girl, a cowboy and his young swashbuckling son, and the Phantom and Christine. However, it is the blissed-out cowpoke riding a wildly bucking bull that comes closest to thematizing the act of dreaming itself; eyes closed, he rides as if in a trance, swimming in washes of yellow and ochre paint that taint the entire picture plane, melding cowfolk, animal, and rodeo into an unreal zone of desire, one that bespeaks a heady mixture of both freedom and control.

Lee Marchalonis

To fit two years of one’s life into a bound journal takes a feat of condensation, either of content or of scale. Between 2004 and 2006, Lee Marchalonis appears to have lived a life of intense travel, experience, and observation, and if she has edited a word of it out of her written account of this time I don’t know where it has gone, for Marchalonis is a goddess of the fine-tipped pen, able to compose text at a mind-boggling scale of thousands of words per page, just as monks do on a grain of rice—or at least so it seems. Interspersed amid the words of her diary are hand-drawn scrolls that bear mottos rich in humor, self-deprecation, and the quirkiness of language. “Maybe today I’ll get hit by a bus,” reads one. “Pretty good but not the best,” says another. Curiously, when these banners find their way into Marchalonis’ series of crisply moody prints of birds on a telephone wire, they grow speechless, spooling empty ripples of white ribbon across the sunset sky, as if in defiance of the need to declare anything specific at all, at least not then, not there, not when the sky casts such a stunning glow, the wires such a magical shadow, the birds such a fantastical sight.

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