Trisha Donnelly

New exhibition by San Francisco based artist.
Modern Art Oxford, Sat October 6th 2007 - Sun December 16th 2007

November 20, 2007
This exhibition reverses the usual route taken around Modern Art Oxford, presenting an experience that represents one evening, as narrated by the companion leaflet. Walking up the stairs that visitors usually leave by, a tall, black, two-pronged structure entitled ‘Necessity’ stands like a trophy. Perhaps it is a pair of thick black tights being pulled over legs in anticipation of an evening out or a lavish long glove being pulled over a reluctant elbow. Once in the room, a theme familiar to Donnelly’s work is immediately embraced: the large room has a few black and white photographs (one of crumpled linen) displayed in it, embodying the two extremes of scale.

The architectural structure of the upper galleries dictates a natural flow in visitors' movements. This dynamic is accentuated in the ‘audio forms’ or sounds that fill each room. The music playing in the gallery is almost the voice of the Artist moving us subconsciously along, having a hand in the type of experience we encounter. The message of the soft romantic dance melody that creates ‘The Ballroom’ out of the largest room becomes more dilute the longer the visitor listens.

There is a constant flux between feeling the installation directly through obvious items such as cut roses and being snapped back to the reality of standing in a gallery, staring at a series of simple sketches. Vases of roses are scattered in the vestibule that links the two main galleries, but this linking space is also installed with a vibrant abstract graphic on a plush cushioned shiny metallic background. The connecting room is a nice place to pause before entering the last department (or ‘lingerie department’ as the accompanying leaflet describes it). This linking area has cut branches tucked away, perhaps ready to replenish the overhang of foliage draped on the balcony of ‘The Ballroom’, but the ‘lingerie department’ it leads on to has no underwear.

The ‘lingerie department’ has seven delicate images pinned up on the wall and the sound exists, ‘like a good mist’, as the leaflet describes. The words written by Donnelly in the exhibition guide make the ‘evening’ memorable. The writing has the definite flow of Donnelly’s artistic energy, and in this context the text is inseparable to the individual pieces. But to enter the ‘lingerie department’ a big block of wood is passed. The other half of this block is in the interconnecting room passed through earlier. The two blocks of wood could be symbols of swing doors that mark a valve that control entry to the space. The work seems to reflect the visitors’ flow through the architectural layout of the space. On the hefty chunks of wood there is a carving of a landmass that Donnelly describes as ‘closest to an Arizona plus China.’ This work is out of this world, and, like a view from a distant planet, two extremes of scale are inescapably juxtaposed whilst all movement comes from a mass of distant inhabitants, naturally giving flux and flow. The gallery visitor may not be as far away from such a cosmic view as imagined. Be sure to take the lift to the ground floor and during descent spot a photograph to help generate an airborne rotation.
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