Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

First in flight

Ann Arbor's Gallery Project has an amazing show up through May 11 organized around the theme of temporality. There are two mixed-media assemblages by Weldon Higgins that were influenced, according to his artist's statement, by Duchamp, Rauschenberg and Joseph Cornell.** The Cornell connection makes sense; they have something of a shadow box aura about them. The first piece, "60," is stunning. It's a large canvas covered in early to mid-twentieth century newspaper clippings about Amelia Earhart and the Hindenburg disaster and too many others to count. "AND THEY WROTE IT DOWN AS A PROGRESS OF MAN" runs across the bottom, painted on over the newsprint. Cut up film stills of (I think) James Cagney and a Fred-and-Ginger-style 1930s dance team come perilously close to bumping up against a face wearing a surgical mask. There are small platforms that extend from the base of the main canvas with human teeth in them, and a jar eaten up by rust and a bird's nest with a tiny avian skull nestled inside. The commentary on transience and decay is arresting once you start tuning in to it, but not so strong that it becomes over-obvious or didactic. You have to work a little to fit the pieces together.

**There's a piece by Gloria Pritschet in the show (Familial Matrix I and II that seems influenced by Cornell, too--lots of black-and-white paste-ins of family photos, with little shelves for curios like screws and rings and wee daguerreotype-like portraits.

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