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Message Sometime Lost in Medium in All's 'Texture'


In the current exhibition, "Texture," at Arts + Literature Laboratory, 22 artists from across the country have incorporated text with composition to address complicated ideas in personal ways. Too often the works, ranging from those that consider various aspects of the human condition to those that focus on cultural and social issues, fail to form a really satisfying union between concept and image, the conceptual concerns not translating into satisfying visual conclusions.

The most successful works address their narratives in probing, original ways, the textual information and aesthetic components co-existing to form a meaningful narrative in which the formal means serve the content, the artists able to draw the viewer into his or her state of mind.

Dominick Talvacchio's video presentation, "Letters (Lost)," is a fine work of quirky inventiveness in which process and aesthetic merge to form an interesting sense of uneasy visual and aural rhythm.

Here a room-size black-and-white video reveals a typewriter cartridge moving back and forth across a page as it pounds out the writer's musings to a former lover. Not only does Talvacchio bring the viewer into the physical typing process, but he also more importantly allows one to observe the emotional turmoil of contradictory impulses, as the writer composes and edits, adds and deletes, in a torturous process that forces one into the role of determining just how much involvement one wants to endure in the tumultuous emotional balancing act.

Hollis Hammond's "Hospital Stay" is an evocative autobiographical piece of storytelling that cleverly combines gestural drawing with handwritten text.

Contemplating her father's final days in the hospital, Hammond blends a textual diary of anecdotes and feelings with an expressive drawing of her father's environment, now filled with the clinical supplies and machines that have become a part of his landscape, the compelling memoir, at once persistent and meditative, finding a comfortable meeting place that neither text nor image alone would elicit.

Anna Strickland's "In My Mother's Dress" speaks to the past to stir up the present.

Fashioning a text-embroidered old-fashioned crinoline slip suspended from the ceiling, Strickland contemplates woman's role, the written reflections adding drama to the commonplace, the work gaining its strength from the textual associations to family memories.

Ben Pranger's "Well House," a spare white-on-white embossed Braille work, explores concepts of the availability and accessibility of information, Pranger pondering the potential differences that can be retrieved from a single image, depending upon one's viewpoint. When the image is confronted by a viewer who can see it but not touch it, the picture becomes a simple, not particularly interesting, architectural structure. The blind person, on the other hand, when able to touch the image, is able to interpret 180 words of text, the point made that an unsighted reader, though unable to see, is able to receive more information than the sighted viewer.

Barbara Romain Peditto's "Tower of Babel" also uses text as the physical element that becomes the image, the random phrases from different languages that make up the painted tower conveying a primitive energy and rawness.

Matt Irie's "Drawing #2," an image of variously dense inked diaristic entries, finds its strength through the exploration of text as visual rhythm, the random content configured into a grid-like formation of compressed imagery, becoming the connective dialogue between the orderly elementary forms of the construct and the randomness of the words.

Judy Birke of New Haven is a freelance writer and art consultant.

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