If you enter the Hyde Park Art Center from the Café side, where they will likely be playing The Magnetic Fields or The Smiths, you can immediately add some sound to the ambient composition by running your fingers over Monica Herrera’s installation, “Strings.” The material of “Strings” is simple but elegant. Plywood platforms, wooden boxes with resonance holes of various sizes, and metal strings of all thicknesses and tensions are strung around the edges of the open gallery space. Herrera plays the role of scientist-luthier, arranging a mysterious instrument for you to interpret. I found myself wondering if various sections of the installation might correspond to specific instruments. A little box nailed to the wall with six high strings, sounding particularly Chinese, made me wonder if I might be playing the plywood and steel equivalent of a Ming Dynasty courtier’s lute. (Do they have lutes in China?) The only thing that frustrated my free, easy play was the at-times makeshift construction of some of the installation’s elements. Some strings were too loose to play (I re-tuned them, breaking the rules), and some of the boards holding the string down were also loose, causing a loud thumping when the strings set into them were plucked, though even this musique concret was not without its pleasures. The installation is accompanied by a set of five watercolor drawings by Herrera, “Fruits of the Forest,” depicting trees growing out of chairs and stumps of trees becoming rolls of paper. These drawings delight and disturb, and recall the “Energy Tree” drawings of Gordon Matta-Clark, part whimsy, part architectural sketch, part dystopian treatise. I looked at them last, and they shed new light on all the plywood resonating and thumping under my curious human hands. (Michelle Tupko)
Through October 19 at Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell.