With uncertainty seeming to be the status quo these days, “Antidote: A Group of Installations Inviting Reverie” (through August 20 at Aggregate Space Gallery, organized by John Felix Arnold) showcases five emerging artists who explore the outer perimeter of the knowable world. With many mixed media and sculptural works that position natural materials—stones, branches, charcoal, leather—in relation to process, change, or manipulation, the artists suggest the alchemical or metaphysical. As wood is burned into charcoal, a Zen rock garden is mechanically raked, and black leather is raised with African totem figures, the exhibition provokes questions about the transformations that might occur between physical objects and the otherworldly. Most strikingly, Calli Roche, Andrew Sungtaek Ingersoll, and Hesoo Kwon present objects and videos where loose, suggestive narratives open up the possibilities of alternative realities.
In a diptych that juxtaposes opaque black leather against chicken wire stretched across a wooden frame, Roche’s “Theodosia’s Egress” (2022) suggests a transgressiveness of visuality and restriction. At first glance, the sea of black leather on the left panel appears like a textured, monochrome abstraction constructed from remnants stapled and nailed together. The visually dense black leather obfuscates the raised African totems and collaged cut-outs of feet, hands, and figures. With brass hair beads stitched into the leather, the work alludes to both the trauma and ornamentation of Black bodies, where the leather suggests skin or hair. In contrast, on the right side, the stretched chicken wire allows viewers to see the white gallery wall behind the work, creating a visual openness that is constricted by the wire and accenting black leather bondage straps.
Through references to a Confucian Scholar’s stone and Zen stone garden, Andrew Sungtaek Ingersoll’s “수석/Scholar stone” (2020) and Instant Nirvana (2021) suggests the metaphysical transformation that can occur through repetition or ritual. While the scholar’s stone evokes a simple sincerity, the enlarged foam hand and mechanically raked Zen garden suggests a rather blunt critique of New Ageism. While these two works might be a little direct, they importantly set up the artist’s strongest work, Racket (2019). With its knotted and elongated handle, the artist suggests that the repeated motion of racket swings has become ingrained in the object itself. Skillfully, Ingersoll takes leaps in his imagination to the mundane. Without the user, the object is no longer animated; with a mix of dejectedness and poetry, the racket lays on the floor bound in a knot.
Moving to the more fantastical, Heesoo Kwon presents “Leymusoom is Holding Us” (2022), part of the artist’s ongoing poetic and surreal videos. CGI women are texture-mapped with reptilian skin; Kwon draws upon Korean mythology to suggest a creation narrative. Shifting between a mysterious celestial space and an urban environment, the oversized goddesses or spirits float in the heavens and then appear lounging over the buildings. Kwon also features Amazonian-sized earthly figures, nude in pinkish flesh, cradling smaller female figures. In this large-scale project, Kwon creates a visceral relationship with viewers’ own bodies while evoking an out-of-the body affect.
Antidote refrains from naming the affliction that the artists are grappling with. The works suggest metaphysical or other realities, where the physical or known world is imbued with the imaginary and unseen. With the artists imaginatively rethinking the physics and reality of our material worlds, they also suggest alternative pathways or portals between being and matter.
ANTIDOTE runs through August 20 at Aggregate Space Gallery, SF. More info here.