Lori Waxman: 3 days, 30 reviews of artwork by St. Louisans | St. Louis Public Radio

Lori Waxman: 3 days, 30 reviews of artwork by St. Louisans

Mar 23, 2015

From March 20 through March 23, art reviewer Lori Waxman brought her "show" to fort gondo compound for the arts. While her performance is funded by the Warhol Foundation and people can come watch, it is also a service to artists who need review to document and validate their work. Waxman sets up shop and writes mini reviews of work submitted to her. Thirty reviews were done in St. Louis and a computer helped make the random selection of which artists's work was looked at. The 30 reviews are below, in reverse order from how they were produced.

Lauren Cardenas

“All the beds I have never slept in, Artstor Vol. 1” is a hefty compendium by Lauren Cardenas, apparently produced by typing search terms like “bed” into the art historical database. (Some images do not seem to fit a suitable search term, suggesting that Cardenas is attempting the impossible task of combing its hundreds of thousands of images manually.) Each of the book’s 600-plus pages is tagged with one of five colored sticky notes, stirring the viewer to propose categories for them. Here are mine: idealization (yellow), death (purple), love (orange), reality (pink) and emptiness (blue). Identifications decided, thence appear artworks that challenge them, belonging to more than one category at once. A lovely Berthe Morisot painting of a young woman getting out of bed is flagged yellow but must also be pink, and maybe orange. A wondrous Persian miniature of a mother nursing her son is flagged pink but seems to be orange and yellow, too. These and other works by Cardenas evince many concerns, but common among them is the question of storage and access, less of objects than of the precious intangibles they contain.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 3:56 p.m.

Quinlan Maggio

It’s not easy to be a painter, after painting has died its thousand deaths and sustained its thousand reincarnations. Quinlan Maggio wrestles with two of the big questions facing those interested in brush and canvas today. One is philosophical: What to do with painting? Maggio answers this in her choice of subject matter, a Magritte-esque array of dislocated objects, including the requisite bowler hat, which seem to pose profound riddles. The other question is practical: What to do with paintings? That’s a storage issue, really, and Maggio is one part witty and two parts wise in her solution. Treat paintings as if they were theater flats and display them likewise, propped up against one another, in overlapping layers that make an unexpectedly appealing mix of abstractions, landscapes and architectural studies.  

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 3:18 PM

Tara Morton

Concrete masonry units, commonly known as cinder blocks, are large rectangular bricks made from cast cement and aggregate. They are industrially manufactured and used to build everything from third world homes to sports stadiums. Tara Morton laboriously casts hers by hand, and though crafted with great care and proper materials, you would not use them to hold up a building. For one, CMUs are designed to work in combination with multiple identical units. For another, they need regular right angles in order to do so. Morton’s blocks are one of a kind. You might, however, stand atop “Cinder Block #1” and delight in trying to balance on its rounded bottom. “Cinder Block #2 (car prop)” would do well on a pedestal, its jaunty angle a sculptural pleasure all its own. The question of purpose (parenthetical specification or not) is one explicitly raised by the uniqueness of Morton’s sculptures, but cinder blocks have always been used for more purposes than one: dorm room bookshelf or trailer park home foundation, it’s still just a cinder block to me.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 3:00 PM

Lucy Miller

Iconic images of women seem to fall into one a few available categories, including these two: Rosie the Riveter’s can-do spirit and the Virgin Mary’s untouchable innocence. Lucy Miller’s paintings on board and paper manifest some of Rosie’s bold strength and some of Mary’s martyrdom, updated for the racially complex and casually violent world of today. (Not that ancient Christendom was simple or World War II peaceful.) Miller paints portraits of women that look as if drawn from magazines of another era or else straight from her imagination. Two Hollywood dames promise to destroy anyone who gets in their way, while a sheepish girl with blue skin and a demure debutante with a blue bouffant evoke immense pathos, in their demeanor as well as their words. Text is effectively appended to many of the pictures, despite some typos and awkward penmanship. With such a cast of characters to choose from, which icon to venerate?

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 2:30 PM

Catalina Ouyang

Intimacy is a game of reveal and conceal, depending on who’s playing. In a group of works by Catalina Ouyang—a video projection, a pair of towering metal sculptures and two framed mixed media pictures—the artist tests different methods of interpersonal knowing for their erotic potential. The video presents a three-minute loop of dense black-and-white imagery, a surrealist mélange that includes a nude male torso, a young person’s bedroom and the bottom half of a body wearing underwear, all of it more or less distorted by shimmers of light and reflection. The sculptures, aluminum magazine racks that promise to fold down and conceal their contents compactly, display long transparent images of nude bodies, an onanistic man and an intertwined couple. The framed pictures mostly show washy color fields, but squinting suggests boudoir images hidden beneath, although peepholes cut in their surface only show young men, their backs turned. The artist notes that much of this imagery comes from her own Skype screenshots, but despite that personal reveal, the work in its obfuscation mostly conceals.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 2:03 PM

Dail Chambers

Itshanapa is the name of a formidable being, the inventor of a brief poetic form dubbed “Dailu,” the painter of neon-tinged landscapes, the spiritualist heir of Wifredo Lam and Amiri Baraka, the sculptor of wandering links in copper and clay, the plotter of haphazard word searches and coloring sheets. Itshanapa is also a name chosen collectively by a group of 22 people and ceremonially given to the artist Dail Chambers, a flesh-and-blood woman who lives in St. Louis and claims among her “sheros” such great and diverse historical figures as Cleopatra, Yoko Ono, Maya Angelou and the Hawaiian matriarchs. Why make art under an assumed personality that claims a lineage as great as the stars? All artists do this to one extent or another, even if they seldom acknowledge it, and even more rarely take on a new nomenclature as a signal. Chambers’s irresistible innovation is to proceed with the boldest and most fabulous transparency.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 12:36 p.m.

Rachael Tellerman

If I weren’t an art critic, I’d be an interior designer. Shelter magazines are my porn. So Rachael Tellerman’s series of collages pasted together from cutout armchairs and grandfather clocks, wooden doors and table lamps, plus plenty of Persian carpets and framed art, personally delights. Tellerman’s conceit in these compact works—none is larger than 8 x 14 inches and most are a lot smaller—has to do with space and the conventions for its visual representation. Does a square pattern indicate a flat wall or a floor drawn with Byzantine perspective? Is a vertical bedframe being shown in a blown-out room or has it morphed into some other kind of furnishing entirely? With echoes of David Hockney and Giorgio de Chirico, Tellerman succeeds by undoing existing spaces to make oddly inviting new ones.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 12:05 p.m.

David Johnson

Every year since 1972, the Kerrville Folk Festival has set its tents and caravans asprawl at the Quiet Valley Ranch in central Texas. David Johnson, born a decade after its inception, has been documenting the goings-on since 2007 in a series he calls “It Can Be This Way, Always.” It isn’t clear if this titular statement reflects the photographer’s own belief, but it certainly expresses that of the gathering’s more senior members, wizened hippies who camp out of caravans inscribed Vibe Tribe Mothership Headquarters and, in a nod to pragmatism, wear support hose in addition to braided beards. A nighttime shot of a trailer strung with holiday lights renders the magic of the place palpable, and also hints at the local politics: bumper stickers intone God Bless Johnny Cash and Texans for Obama. There are young people here, too, lots of them, and Johnson’s individual portraits of the more outlandishly dressed suggest a punk update of dropout culture. Giant toy Uzis, black bustier, ropes of pearls, pirate hat and wireless headset startle against the relaxed atmosphere of Texas Hill Country, but a swig from one of the ubiquitous festival beer mugs ought to help it go down easier.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 11:39 a.m.

Ken Wood

A musician friend of mine used to comment on the quality of the individual instruments in whatever it was we were listening to. I couldn’t hear the guitar if I tried, only the overall pop song. With Ken Wood’s prints it’s different: my eyes thrill to discern one large, smooth sky blue gesture from the taupe and grey ones layered over and under it, to notice the loopy black grid with its jazzy Mondrian-esque infills that recurs in another print, upside down, amid brushy rusty swoops. It’s as if Wood is testing out what happens when this shape and that color and this gesture, when that shape and this color and that gesture, come together: like human figures, but without the baggage, they alternately sit on one another’s laps, dance languidly, collide with incipient bruising or just lounge around, relaxing. Sometimes three’s a crowd, and Wood removes gesture or kicks out that shape, but in the best of times, each is copacetic with the other.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 11:01 a.m.

Amelia-Colette Jones

How to create a drawing? Some folks, mostly those who don’t actually make drawings, might think it easy enough to just sit down, put marker to paper, and let freeform expression do its thing. Others realize the necessity of rules, so they devise them. Amelia-Colette Jones generates dizzyingly associative pictures in the oddest of shapes by applying directives that dictate how certain colors and letters must behave. The phrase at the center of each drawing can be tricky to decipher—I discerned the individual terms you, welcome, place, bring and possibly the sentence you have me dry—but reading seems somewhat beside the point. More germane is to follow the colorfully outlined forms that eddy off Jones’s scripts in all directions (not just the typical left to right, up to down of English text). Fabulousness results: I spied brightly plumed peacocks, sliced open opera cakes and trippy Victorian endpapers, all of which would have been much duller to evoke with words used in their usual way.

—Lori Waxman 3/21/15 10:24 a.m.

Ilene Berman

What’s a fair exchange? Ilene Berman offers one of her drawings in exchange for one done by a stranger on the street. She provides the materials, which unpack as if magically from the customized cargo bike she alternately parks at a senior center, a youth group and on the street. The street is significant: Delmar Boulevard, recently described by the Washington Post as “the line that divides a city by race and perspective.” Berman is acutely aware of the differences that mark the north from the south sides of the street: she lives north and has made a walking study of it. She has also begun a campaign to try and render the north-south exchange fairer. The bike is part of that effort, as are a series of 10 framed handkerchiefs, each embroidered in gold floss with a single line from a manifesto. Businesses and a school north of Delmar display one each. The appearance may be fragmentary but the effect is not: it will take more than just one artist to achieve the changes Berman envisions, so she’s out there gathering partners through each exchange.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 7:09 p.m.

Mike Behle

It becomes easier every day to make an image, even an image that by the standards of past generations would be considered sophisticated. I can do this on my laptop using Photo Booth; so can my five year old. Mike Behle uses images like these—uncannily mirrored photographs of a cluttered desktop or a still life, impossibly fractured surfaces of punched tin, all of them so simple to produce they’ve become banal, even though they’re not really. Behle truly uses them, both in the sense of deployment and exploitation. He makes them the random ground on which to produce simple paintings, each in a single straight-from-the-tube paint color that pops right off its dull backdrop. What does he paint? That remains to be seen. Some shapes register in a fuzzy way: maybe a figure with its arms out here, maybe a bunch of droopy flowers there. The sheer pleasure generated by looking at these pictures doesn’t quite add up from their parts. But then, Behle isn’t a mathematician, he’s an artist.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 6:33 p.m.

Kit Keith

The world can be distractingly fast and slippery thin these days. The work of Kit Keith is not. Keith is a connoisseur of stuff that other people throw out, and she has been since long before we started throwing just about everything out. She has painted on scrap metal shelves and old box springs, treating them as stretched canvases fresh from the art supply shop. She has painted on paper torn from out-of-date books and magazines. On nearly all of these surfaces she inscribes careful black-and-white portraits, themselves borrowed from print ads for products long expired. Everything is inscribed, in subtle but recognizable ways, with the styles and gestures of past generations, especially the scrubbed-clean faces of the 1950s. The combinations she achieves are anything but polite, however, especially when surrounded by scribbles and drips. So welcome Kit Keith, not that she’s new (she was making this work in the downtown New York scene of the late 80s and she continues making it now), but welcome all the same, because it’s nice to know that you and what you do belong, even if by being outside the times.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 6:10 p.m.

Buzz Spector

Dust jackets have always seemed unnecessary to me. I throw them out, mildly pained by the waste of paper and ink. Buzz Spector cuts them up, categorizes their parts (author photos, phrases of praise, conventional subheadings), then reconfigures them into collages of repetition and excess. Spector has long treated books as a raw material for art making, but his typological forays are less well known. An orderly grid of the phrase “About the author” (and its similars “About the authors” and “The author”) reminds a Canadian-born critic of native differences in the pronunciation of certain English words. A tidy jumble of fragmented photos of authors, each posed against shelves of books, books that must have photos of their own authors posed in front of more books, dizzies. Little moments of genius occur here, amid the stacks, as Spector lines up half an author’s face with another’s, creating one face where there were two, or even three. To a book lover, even one who chucks her dust jackets, all of this can seem sacrilegious, but only heretics really care enough to question that which they love.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 5:28 p.m.

Krista Valdez

One of the tasks of an artist is to take notice of a material so common that it goes unrecognized for any but its usual purpose. Krista Valdez has chosen chain-link fencing, the ubiquitous diamond-shaped metal grid that is the cheap solution to property and security issues everywhere. Having cut modest picture-sized rectangles of the stuff, Valdez proceeds to paint it with dense strokes of plaster. Blobby ones recall Lynda Benglis’s floor sculptures, crusty ones the faux-naif canvases of Jean Dubuffet. Black paint colors Valdez’s art every shade of grey from outside in; left outdoors to be finished by the elements, rust tints it yellowy-brown from the inside out. Reinventing familiar material in an artwork can result in the discovery of novelty, or it can produce revelations about the material itself. Valdez achieves a bit of both, including a surprisingly formal realization: chain-link fencing has an orientation. It is strongly vertical. Who knew?

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 3:37 p.m.

Gina Grafos

What happens when a church steeple lays down on the ground, end to end with a second steeple? When “bless” becomes a slick neon sign, does it retain holy sentiment? What is released when a dinner plate, a dozen dinner plates, is smashed against a stone wall? Gina Grafos takes structures, words, objects and images from common culture and tests them by making them perform in unexpected ways. Found plastic surgery photographs from the 1980s are overlaid atop educational cards from the 1940s; both lose their original expository function but gain new associations of surprising logic: to this viewer, at least, an ear tuck gives way to hearing political speech, while a tummy tuck reveals the ethical trouble of wearing fur. The solidity of identity and meaning is often taken for granted, but not here.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 3:04 p.m.

Tuan Nguyen

Is a game really a game if it can’t be played? Is a picture really a picture if its images can’t be understood? In a series of sculptures and ink drawings, Tuan Nguyen tests out the value of these existential questions and achieves some answers. A quartet of wooden boards with shards of wood glued to their facades come close but never all the way to being old-fashioned games: mazes around which to direct small balls, holes into which to drop them. With surfaces alternately covered in innumerable graphite marks or glops of paint, they double as almost-drawings and almost-paintings, in addition to almost-games. A luminous set of “Marbles,” irregularly sized and made of acrylic paint, sawdust, graphite and gesso, begs to be picked up and played with. That no one does may say more about the expectations of a gallery-going public—externally imposed and self-sustaining—than it does about the nature of games, or anything else that artworks sometimes attempt to impersonate.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 2:33 p.m.

Jeremy Rabus

Jeremy Rabus makes strange little paintings that upon further inspection only get stranger and stranger. This is good. The pictures, painted in acrylic on panel, begin with tangy swaths of color that then get partially covered over in other swaths of color. Odd shapes emerge from the overlapping of each layer, until finally the picture is full and can absorb no more invention. Sometimes Rabus goes too far and the picture very nearly overspills its surface, but how else to know how much a painting can bear? The jewel-box landscapes of the great Lebanese artist Etel Adnan seem like an influence; if not, they ought to be. Rabus’s penchant for titling his paintings with invented place names—“Turerio Bluff” and “Lava Falls, Isla Jeowala” returned no Google search results—suggests he sees his compositions not just as freeform abstractions but also as imaginary landscapes. How lovely it would be to travel there.

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 2:01 p.m.

John Early

Beginning in the mid-1920s, the Surrealists mounted a campaign to find the missing marvelous in everyday life. They believed that life had become banal but that its wonders were there, lurking beneath the surface. All one needed was to be primed to recognize them. By the evidence of a trio of photographs and a small, dense sculpture, John Early is well prepared. The pictures, taken in urban residential backyards, frame nothing less than wooden fences, spring shrubbery, a garage roof, and the backs of houses across the alley. But they reveal so much more: a riot of patterns, the mystery of shadows, the strange flattening of three-dimensional space, the uncanniness of repeated forms. A dingy black mat board, propped up against a porch post, becomes an artful repository of primal gestures, and the world behind it its frame. A heavy, rounded blob of plaster and dirt, titled “Mountain,” encapsulates the modesty of Early’s project and also its incalculable magic. It would be a molehill by any other name, but isn’t life that much more extraordinary when he calls it a mountain?

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 1:31 p.m.

Joanna Hoge

Paper contains verbal and visual ideas as skin contains the organs of our bodies. Piercing either of these materials must be done with the greatest of care if integrity is to be maintained and infection avoided. In a series of embroidered intaglio prints that reproduce anatomical diagrams, Joanna Hoge wields a needle and thread as well as the roller of a printing press, with results that suggest the movement of substances physical and metaphysical through regions of the body: air and speech through the mouth, blood and lymph through the pelvis, warm touch and defensive protection around the torso. The awkward addition of photographic imagery and a bedroom setting feels unnecessary. A brief text about verbal domestic abuse printed near stitched-up internal tissues implies the body’s main method of repair: scarring. If mended well enough, a torn piece of paper, like a torn apart person, will come out stronger. 

—Lori Waxman 3/20/15 12:56 p.m.

Jennifer Baker

The founding myth of Rome is a tale of a she-wolf and two heroic brothers, Romulus and Remus, who fought to the death. But there is more than one way to tell a story. In an installation of paintings, sculptures and video, Jennifer Baker uses ponderous forms and pungent materials to create a tormented memorial to the men’s mother, a vestal virgin raped by the god Mars and forced to abandon her twins at their birth. “The Guilty Woman of the Forest and Her Many Tombs” contains guttural sculptures of the hills of Rome and paintings of its shores, representing them as sites both real and imaginary, geographic and emotional. Everything is drenched in organic substances like molasses, crystalized salt and milk, insisting on life as much as eventual decay, and the importance of smells and natural processes in the work of feminist historical recuperation. 

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 7:12 p.m.

Alika Cooper

Ironing boards and grey fabric might not seem like materials belonging in the studio of an artist set on erotically reinventing the painted canvas. In the hands of Alika Cooper they somehow do. Cooper, who has used patterned and colored textiles in the past, here uses cut cloth in various shades of grey—not fifty, but enough—applying it to canvas with adhesive and heat in configurations that cohere into geometric interpretations of bodies and other, less recognizable forms. Art deco and camouflage preside as stylistic guides. Visible pencil marks and stitching distract in some works, as do overly representative images. The more abstract, the better to sustain an erotics of close looking and surprise.

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 6:34 p.m.

Jay Babcock

Jay Babcock makes patterns out of people. This is both as sinister and as decorative as it sounds, and it makes a sharp rejoinder to the kind of optimistic perfection of 1950s suburban America. What Babcock actually does is lift faces and bodies out of high school yearbooks, where they are posed in helmet hairdos and three-quarter views, or in feats of athletic derring-do. Removed from their context, they become flexible figures in his hands, able to be reconfigured in any number of jumbles and motifs, telling stories that Babcock devises for them, much as the outsider artist Henry Darger narrated his epic tales by copying found pictures of young girls. But Babcock’s pictures feel mischievous in their repetitive use of banal imagery, like those by the underappreciated Pop artist John Wesley. They use restraint and order to undo restraint and order. Look out.

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 6:04 p.m.

Sage Dawson

How to know and visually present a blighted place without resorting to the ease of disaster photography? Sage Dawson proposes a number of unexpected methods in “Emblem,” her study of Summerville, a historic neighborhood in Augusta, Georgia, built as an elite getaway and today surrounded by low-income housing. These include a tableful of found objects and a wall sculpture of decorative emblems. A pair of prints, so heavily over-painted they look like mosaic or inlay, radiate with visionary forms barely tempered by black foliage and fiery splashes. Dawson explored the area on foot with a custom drawing device strapped to her torso: as she ambled, a piece of dry pastel bobbed up and down on a piece of paper, imprinting it with the staccato rhythm of her footsteps. The results tell no more or less about the neighborhood than did William Anastasi’s earlier pocket drawings, ongoing since the late sixties, made by walking New York City. What they do reveal about Summerville is its accessibility to a pedestrian, a testament to its origins in the late 18th century, when elite environments had not yet evolved to include three-car garages. 

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 5:39 p.m.

Sarah Witt

We know that the built environment was designed and built by humans, but we often fail to realize the extent to which it shapes us in return. Sarah Witt presents “The Funeral,” a gesamtkunstwerk uniting two years of performative gestures, as a testament to one woman’s reluctant embodiment of this predicament. Finding herself an inhabitant of a slick hi-tech corporate space, she experimented with ways of knowing it in a physical sense by going all white and crawling across the floors, and bending herself around the building’s corners until she disappeared. She took on its robotic imperatives by doing repetitive tasks with gadgets until they drove her mad. She tried to resist by driving out to the desert and rolling around with the tumbleweeds, and by making a drippy, dirty mess of the building’s meticulousness. None of this worked. Finally, Witt went back in time, past the Situationist International call to psychogeographic arms, past the Surrealist desire for a psychological marvelous, all the way to Guy de Nerval’s nineteenth-century flaneur, who walked through Paris with a turtle slowing him down. There may not have been much traffic to impede in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Witt and her reptilian friend went crawling, but at least she had found herself a better friend than Building E14.

—Lori Waxman3/19/15 5:05 p.m.

Sarah-Marie Land

Children make irresistible subjects for photographic portraiture: they are beings in transition, familiar yet unknown, entirely narcissistic but not necessarily comfortable with inhabiting the center of a staged picture. In “School Portrait Series,” Sarah-Marie Land poses them at home, dressed in their school uniforms, a mixture of plaid tunics and business casual. Details matter immensely here, and sometimes they go awry. Detractions include reflections in the glass of a framed piece of art, the slight blurring of body parts, a repeated head position or facial expression. Other awkward moments are revelatory—evidence of a house under renovation mismatched with a luxurious vase of lilies, a grand backdrop of sheer curtains behind a girl about to cry, a pair of twin boys whose bodies align such that one’s leg seems to come out of the other’s shirtsleeve. These surrealities, accidents of the environment and the angle captured by a photographer smart enough to recognize them, add to complex portraits of young people in the mysterious and ongoing process of forming themselves.

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 3:44 p.m.

Amy Reidel

What to worship in an era of television and plastic? Can colorful glitter and fabulous women in puffy sleeves meaningfully take the place of Buddhist mandalas and golden haloed Madonnas? (Not that Madonna, the genuinely virginal one.) Can data about weather events replace Biblical forecasts? Amy Reidel does not have a definitive answer, but in her paintings, videos and sculptural installations she poses these questions with disarming sincerity and genuine openness. Under Reidel’s contemporary telling, the tragic Karen Carpenter plays Jesus, homegrown crystals make fabulous magic, a custom window cling elevates like glorious stained glass, gold glitter renders an angelic halo, Julia Sugarbaker of the 80s sitcom “Designing Women” rages righteous feminist belief all the way to Heaven, and pixellation renders spiritual aura visible. Thank god? Thank shoulder pads.

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 3:11 p.m.

Michael Coleman

Michael Coleman, a photographer and designer of album covers, has an eye for two different kinds of irony. The first might be termed found irony and is captured with concise wit and head-on framing in pictures of an abandoned swimming pool at the Joy Motel, a banner outside Paradise announcing New Management (it’s a strip club), and a sunny pueblo mural behind a rusty steel fence. The second we’ll call ironic beauty, and Coleman spots it just a little ways down the southwest highways where found irony appears: the rusted, shot-up cab of a truck, its crushed roof aligning perfectly with one-point perspective; the long glowing slope of a pink neon wall decoration, magic hour sky bisected above; the layering of an asphalt horizon with alternate horizons comprised of gas station flags, a row of pothole covers, grassy fields and distant mountains. Which category of irony causes more pain, which more pleasure, depends on the individual viewer.

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 2:36 p.m.

Cole Lu

“Super Sad True Love Story” is a 2010 novel by the Russian-born writer Gary Shteyngart. It is also the name of an exhibition by Cole Lu, a Taiwanese-born artist. Shteyngart’s novels are erudite and hilarious in a way that feels especially contemporary: expressing a sincere emotional response that is unknowingly superficial. Lu’s sculptures materialize similar sentiments around the idea of love and caring or, as she puts it in a painfully succinct light box text that makes the most of its literal and figurative meanings: CURRENTLY UN-ABLE TO GIVE A F---. A foam helmet reconfigured with a toilet paper dispenser offers a cutely immediate way to deal with the excessive crying typical of emotional heartbreak, while a specially designed shelf provides a space to store smart devices, so necessary for what passes as relating today. A coffee maker-plus-toy gun assemblage sits on coffee table dubbed “LACK” by Ikea, raising the question: Did the designer forget to check his English-Swedish dictionary or did he, like Lu, imagine the temporary furnishings of temporary love?

—Lori Waxman 3/19/15 2:08 p.m.

Kellie Spano

In an age of sexy Selfies, how to make a nude self-portrait that is at once a celebration of the voluptuous female form and a historical critique of its use? Artist Kellie Spano achieves this in slippery fashion with a trio of photographs titled “M’Antiques: The Philia Project.” Each image layers a classic black-and-white pin-up—think Betty Page circa 1954—overtop a color picture of Spano in a similar pose.

What seems to be a double exposure in photographic terms is not: the images weren’t shot on a single cell of film but printed one atop the other. Instead, it’s a double exposure in human terms: two people uncovered. The effect dizzies, the pair of women unexpectedly hard to separate. The pleasure of looking is shaken, not stirred. 

—Lori Waxman  3/19/15 1:30 p.m.