The works in Cass Davis’ provocative, slow-burn exhibition, “Out of Time,” resonate as intense but fleeting sense impressions. Laying bare the formative experiences of the artist’s life, this Pia Singh-curated show is at turns beautiful and banal, specific and unstable. At its core is the persistent question: How do we become who we are?
The conceptual terrain of Davis’ visual investigations are well enough trodden. In the crosshairs: the stifling quality of small-town Christianity and its impact on burgeoning queer identity. But what elevates a show that could easily slip into “woke” moralizing are thoughtfully composed works that do not suggest outright condemnation, but rather, offer recognition.
Nowhere is this subtle view more evident than in the ten-minute short film that anchors the exhibition. “Sundown Town, Reprise” is dimly lit and strikingly beautiful. Images of celebratory parades and funeral marches, boarded-up windows and dead flowers float by in a hallucinatory, split-screen eulogy for the past and its continual (and problematic) resurrection in the present.
By acknowledging that the oppressive qualities of rural life, with its inflexible gender roles and narrow path to salvation, have helped shape the artist into what they’ve become today, the viewer is treated to something special. Namely, a nuanced understanding of self and the world. Good flowers do spring from evil roots, and the best intentions often lead to damaging outcomes. Few shows are sophisticated enough to articulate this paradox. “Out of Time” is one of them. (Alan Pocaro)
“Out of Time,” through November 14 at Aspect Ratio Projects, 864 North Ashland.