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What do you see: Plexus No 18 at Kendall College

Gabriel Dawe's strings will take you in and off center, another sophisticated and playful work along with a venue full of that same successful tension between playfulness and complexity.
Plexus No 18 by Gabriel Dawe

Plexus No 18 by Gabriel Dawe /Samantha Searl

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What I'm seeing at ArtPrize

This article is part of a series of windows into what I'm seeing during ArtPrize. 

Before my life as the managing editor of The Rapidian, I was (and still am) an artist and curator. The first year of ArtPrize, I spent my time curating and managing a venue called "45 Ottawa," one of the 10 largest venues in the event. During the second year, I joined the ArtPrize team and assisted artists, venues and volunteers alike. The third year, I maintained a "blog curation" of my personal ArtPrize experience. This year, I'm helping our citizen journalists talk about the event and the work within it. While I'm at it, I'll be adding my own snippets of what I'm seeing along the way.


You can join me.

/Holly Bechiri

In a beautifully curated space at Kendall College's new use of the Old Federal Building, in the middle of quality work clamoring for attention, Gabriel Dawe made me stop and get curious with Plexus No 18.

Created from brightly colored strings ranging throughout the full spectrum of color, attached on a line of simple hooks, Plexus No 18 transforms a simple material that in another presentation could appear garish or unsophisticated. I don't think I've ever been a fan of that string that goes from one color to the other and on down the rainbow. It reminds me of bad scarves knitted by half-blind elderly relatives. You know, that scratchy polyester stuff you find at your local craft store, 50% off in a special sale that happens every week. 

Perhaps that's why the work stopped me first. Those bright colors shouldn't look sophisticated. Anything that bright and multi-colored shouldn't look so complex and soothing.

But it is.

There is a certain peace about the way the work held together. Clearly, there is an expanse of mathematics and architectural construction behind the process of this work. From certain angles, the strings are certainly alternately bowing and bending. Or maybe they were stiffened somehow so they look like they are all hanging down at exactly the same curve. 

In reality, the piece is just taut strings, back and forth, in measured and precise angles. No actual curves exist. My eyes are fooling me, over and over, trying to figure out the work.

Samantha Searl, viewing the piece, felt disoriented.

"It just sucked you in and twisted your sense of center," she explained.

Dustin Rogers, a volunteer at the venue, was able to watch Dawe install his work and, in the process, spend some real time with it. What he came away from his own experience of the work is the conclusion that, perhaps, the work is about the experience.

"You stand in front of it, you look at it from different angles, you see spectrums of colors and … just experiencing the artwork and being able to tangibly take it in-it's not the same sensory experience as you would get standing in front of a painting," says Rogers. "You're standing in front of something that seems to have a little more life."

The entire venue at Kendall, in fact, is full of life.

"The whole venue is right on the edge of "too much" but never crosses over," says Searl.

Michele Bosak, its curator, was obviously careful in every detail, and her choices sophisticated and yet often playful. Bosak's choices went on through every detail, from the work selected to their placement and lighting, right down to the professional labeling. Even the choice of volunteer wardrobe, made of pink vests and black and white houndstooth scarves, reflects that balance between sophistication and playfulness. Every element of the space, and not just the work selected, seems to reflect the show's title, "Role/Play."

"I think she maintained a dignified humor throughout the show as well," says Searl. "Really well executed."


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