Underground But Not Under the Radar
“This is unbelievable,” Alexandra Borovski beamed minutes after being named one of three winners in the 2011 Bemis Center Regional Exhibition. “I grew up in Omaha,” said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln art student, “and to be a part of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has always been a goal of mine. It’s like the pinnacle of everything I could imagine.”
The painter was joined by (serendipity alert) her roommate, Kan Seidel, and Brittan Rosendahl as the trio of artists who were awarded $500 and their own Bemis Underground solo show at the March 25 opening night event attended by an elbow-to-elbow crowd of almost 500 people. Only one week remains for the Bemis Underground exhibition that runs through April 16 and features a variegated array of over 50 works from 36 artists ranging in age from 21 to 88.
Borovski, then less than a week shy of blowing out a 22nd candle on a birthday cake, should be allowed some leeway for her weighty use of the word “pinnacle.” The prism of youth and the excitement of the moment perhaps clouded the context of the appellation. My guess is that there are many pinnacles to come as she and Seidel plan a move together to New York City, even while juggling plans for their respective Bemis Underground shows.
Seidel’s ten-second-ish continuous loop video was this writer’s favorite piece in the collection of offerings judged by Kate Hackman, associate director of Kansas City’s Charlotte Street Foundation, the non-profit organization recognized nationally for its multifaceted support of individual artists.
Seidel’s Woman features a screen-filling close-up of a woman announcing “I am a black woman” before jump-cutting to the same figure, now clad in a ‘50’s-era, June Cleaver-esque apron and frills homemaker ensemble, as she proclaims, “The American dream … the American destiny … For every white woman.”
I was almost disappointed to learn from Seidel that Woman is a snippet from a longer piece. Like Bruce Nauman’s series of clown videos that years ago held me transfixed for what seemed an eternity at the Art Institute of Chicago, Seidel’s video is hypnotically short, sweet and repetitive. Go ahead, I dare you … just try to get it out of your head.
Why photography evoking the look and feel of a passport Polaroid snapshot?
“There’s a certain manner in the way information is exchanged in that setting,” Rosendahl said (in validating my acquisition of three of his works a few years ago). “It’s a very particular set of parameters that represents a power structure, a controlled environment.”
Other favorites in the exhibition include:
Angeles Cossio’s Seeing What Happens is an array of three anachronistic overhead projectors casting mesmerizing images. Perhaps the most captivating was the crumpled sheet of transparency material that, when suspended perpendicular to the projector’s plate, dappled the wall with an undulating sea of serenity.
Neil Griess’ Site Measure is an urban street-view oil painting employing a photo-realism style (Greiss is the nephew of artist Kent Bellows) that is part Rockwell, part Hopper and all his own.
Will Anderson’s Me & Kong is not a fantasy piece, the artist asserted, but a vibrant depiction of a freakishly behemoth breed of catfish found in the swampy jungles of Southeast Asia.
Lauren Mabry’s Cylinder answers the question, albeit on a smaller scale, “What would Richard Serra have done if he had ever discovered color?
Recently named Bemis Underground Director Joel Damon has put together a stunningly eclectic exhibition, one that broadens and revitalizes the mission of the subterranean space below 12th Street.
“The importance of this exhibition is that the Bemis Underground has a chance to form new relationships, new conversations with artists and audiences that were perhaps not on our radar before this show,” Damon told Omaha.net.
Exhibiting Artists: Will Anderson, Alexandra Borovski, Michael Burton, Peter Cales, Matthew Carlson, Angeles Cossio, Jodi Cramer, Gary Day, Ryan Fisher, Ann Gradwohl, Neil Griess, Tim Guthrie, Nikolaus Hansl, William Hess, Drew Lueders, Lauren Mabry, Jessica Machacek, Laura Mohr, Sean P. Morrissey, Emma Nishimura, Lonnie Potter, Derek Pressnall, Brittan Rosendahl, Megan Sanders, Kan Seidel, Audrey Stommes, Meghan Sullivan, Trudie Teijink, Jeffrey Thompson, Alison VanVolkenburgh, Robert Walters, Ella Weber, Z Xonk, Jason Young and Arjan Zazueta.