on a parallel track with environmentally oriented artists such as photographer David Maisel and painters Kristin Baker and Mary Anne Kluth. She speaks of wanting to “make work that is so secret from myself that I would be seduced into making it.” The nine works on view here continue her critique of landscape and the visceral histrionics of altered space and frozen time — mesmerizing, toxic, known and unknowable.
Like many artists today who explore the demise of nature, Shows, who grew up in Alaska, acutely aware of the devastation wrought by mining, has long navigated the terrain between nature and techno-culture. Once bucolic and carrying an unassailable purity, landscape is now threatened or threatening. The chalky deposits and tarry slags of Shows’ work speak to the fact of human intervention and a permanently altered earth. She illuminates both our geologic and industrial history, revealing subterranean chaos and multiple realities.
Works such as Serrated A/The tail of anotherand K Drop/In each beakdeftly manipulate notions of representation, idea and experience. Paying close attention to the intrinsic qualities of materials, Shows bypasses culturally inculcated meanings and lets “nature take its course.” The granular sediment and metallic glaze function as skins over Shows’ deeper ideas: of landscape as a construct, perched atop uncontrollable, unknowable forces that grow, erode and regenerate.
Smaller works, such as the left condition, the right condition and Isomere don’t fare as well. They’re compelling at a distance, but up-close their integration of drawing and facture feels over-studied, in sharp contrast to the larger works, where awe and confusion about our environment and the challenge it poses to our own relative importance loom large. As Robert Smithson so elegantly put it: “One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion … brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing."