This is an exhibition for people who like to search the sky for patterns on a clear, starry night. There’s slim chance any of them are intentional, but that hasn’t discouraged millennia of ingenious interpretations. Rebecca Morris offers more grist for that mill. One piece even resembles a night sky with thousands of scattered dots and dabs as seen through a six-feet-wide circle that suggests a porthole in a spaceship. It has been overlaid with a rectangular grid that facilitates comprehension, and yes, the marks do seem to build into a subtle pattern of interrelated movements, but just barely. Perhaps, like constellations, this pattern is only in the mind of the observer.
Other pieces play with different kinds of overlaying frames and adjacent patterned areas. They resemble crazy quilts, except that the patterns were created by the artist herself and none offer the formal intensity and emotive punch of commercially printed fabrics. Instead, they provide a variety of contrasts: sharp/blurry, warm/cool, serpentine/straight, motive/static, dull/shiny. These juxtapositions are interesting, but individually, none are more exciting than the random red-yellow-brown patterns of each brick of the gallery wall behind them. Like a serious scientist, the artist’s personality is not apparent in her research, except for what is suggested by the knife-sharp edges and protozoan energy of her forms. She offers no other self-expression or aesthetic delight. Smoothing out the rough edges, digital images of her work look better than the originals. It’s not that she’s been careless, but rather that she has been careful not to distract the viewer from the mental exercise she intends. That exercise is most demanding when nothing is offered but a shiny white grid over a dull brown canvas. It’s not solid brown—you can identify varied brush strokes—but it’s no less banal than a smudged sheet of graph paper.
With work that offers neither pleasure nor narrative, why not make the exercise of pattern comprehension even more challenging? Simply open your eyes and pretend the circular field of vision is a painting. (Chris Miller)
Through December 3 at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 North Ashland