The mystical temperament is not one that finds much encouragement in contemporary art discourse, which tends toward the materialist, rational and quantifiable, even if artistic creation is usually based on intuition. Writers still have to explain and make a case for art, after all. There are, of course, minimalist sculptures, monochrome paintings and light installations that demand prolonged observation and a meditative state of mind to deliver messages and feelings that transcend verbalization. Perhaps we need a better vocabulary to discuss the meaning of materially rooted works whose immaterial qualities are visible only to initiates or spiritual adepts.
The sculptures and drawings of Mari Andrews and Sheila Ghidini in A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground, bridge this pictorial-linguistic gap. Their works, which have similarities to process art, land art and conceptualism, aim at what Suzi Gablik called a “resacralization” of the world: a reclamation of what has been lost on our beleaguered planet. The title is derived from the mystical Persian poet Rumi (1207-1273), who advised: “Let the beauty of what you love / Be what you do / There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Heeding those words, Mari Andrews creates “paperless drawings” – wall-mounted sculptures fashioned from leaves, moss, lichen, grass, acorns, pods, rose hips and pasta, along with more traditional materials, like wood, wire, steel, lead, thread, paper, foam, plastic and porcelain. While these poetic works have affinities to various art-historical styles, their construction seems to follow to the dictates of the materials that catch Andrews’ eye. The work is lyrical, witty and complex. The lichen-covered comma-shaped seed forms in Frill seem to be reflections or twins sprouting from their juncture. Plumb, with its pineapple shape and stem, hangs suspended, a moss-filled wire bundle of negligible weight. The balloon form in Helium lofts a similarly insubstantial gondola of tree moss, but the wire frame contains no buoyant gas: it hovers like a soap bubble or airborne dandelion puff. Counting covers a magnolia leaf with alphabet-soup letters, wittily hinting at the forest, while the five spindly grass fingers of Fan seem incapable of moving air unless activated by magic. That piece, like 30 others here, has an anthropological or ritual air that makes utility beside the point. While the pieces are conceived as separate artworks, mounted on the wall together, they cohere into a silent theater. (Andrews has another exhibit, Effloresce, at Brian Gross Fine Art, in the lobby of 1 Post Street, SF, through March 26.)
(Andrews has another exhibit, Effloresce, at Brian Gross Fine Art, in the lobby of 1 Post Street, SF, through March 26.)
Sheila Ghidini proffers a mixed-media investigation of birds and birds’ nests with six philosophical pieces that play with real and virtual space. Four pieces pair graphite wall drawings of birds with adjacent objects. The empty chair in A Conversation with a Crow invites the viewer to sit and talk with its avian protagonist. Real branches provide perches for an owl (A Theory of Knowing) and a hummingbird returning to its nest (Away from Home).
More puzzling is a tricycle sprouting a tree branch (on which a bird perches) instead of handlebars (A Guiding Principle). A drawing, Nest with Blue Ribbons, and an installation, Another Center of Gravity, depict birds’ nests as psychically charged, the latter with a plumb bob hanging from a ceiling-mounted branch down to a vortex-like nest drawn on a square panel.
The works in this show require viewers to slow down and look; mindfulness seems an appropriate term for the requisite approach. Viewers able to turn off their mental engines and observe ruminatively will find the rest stop worth the ostensibly lost productivity.
A Thousand Ways To Kiss The Ground: Mari Andrews and Sheila Ghidini @ Chandra Cerrito Contemporary through March 20, 2010
Effloresce: Mari Andrews at Brian Gross Fine Art, lobby of 1 Post Street, SF, through March 26.