Poking at the connections between the physical and the spiritual, and material and practice, the four artists behind “From Here to There” raise questions about the fleeting, if not illusory, nature of physical existence. Art that strives to investigate the spiritual can be nothing but complicated, at least in as much as the idea of spirituality is complex by virtue of the varying cultural interpretations of the existence of a soul and an afterlife. Spirituality may simply be a degree of consciousness, but consciousness is undoubtedly a process.
Linda Robinson Gordon’s drawings feel like electron-microscope captures of light bouncing off surfaces, and call to mind twin artists Ryan and Trevor Oakes, who exhibited work rooted in the nature of vision at Spertus in 2009. Gordon’s “Loci” series is increasingly intriguing as one approaches the work from a distance. Red points land randomly on the paper, each surrounded by emanating ripples, creating a web of overlapping circles. Proximity reveals chaos, but from afar, this chaos is contained in a shape that could easily be the pupil of an eye, possibly an allusion to the idea of the human body being made of star dust or the whole of the universe being contained in an individual grain of sand, in a single holy moment.
A series of charcoal drawings by Ellen Holtzblatt, entitled “Destroyed Worlds,” also transport the viewer, either into a minimal, terrestrial landscape, or toward an internal and contemplative bleakness. This contrasts beautifully with Michelle Stone’s alien, undulating, colorful stalagmites, an important facet of the entire show, as Stone’s work makes the strongest case for three-dimensionality and the importance of the tactile.
Perhaps how artists use and connect with their materials, and how they see themselves within their practice, provides the deepest insight into what is holy, however. French film critic André Bazin felt that film—if unbound from narrative storyline—was a record of god, that it captured god incarnate through the random and spontaneous acts of individuals. In her five-and-a-half-minute video loop, Lilach Schrag stands in a body of water, writing Hebraic letters on her forearms with a brush and black ink. Once her arms are covered in text, she washes them clean in the water and then covers them in text again, over and over. A ritual, a prayer? Art is fortunately one of the locales where spirituality is allowed to converge across cultures and in any medium. (Damien James)
“From Here to There,” Spertus Institute, 610 South Michigan, through January 19, 2020.