Will the human body ever become cliché ? For thousands of years it has served western—and most non-western art—very well. In fact, except when specifically proscribed, it has been the centerpiece of our visual world (even during the brief interlude of abstraction’s orthodoxy, when critics rather than clerics banned the figure, artists like Pollock and de Kooning couldn’t help returning to it). It may be our innate narcissism, but we can’t seem to leave the human body alone, continually finding new ways to reference and revere it, and this month in Ogden, Scott Patria has assembled three complementary artists who do just that, engaging the body as medium and metaphor.
Most notable is Jordan Eagles, a New York-based artist who uses blood to create glowing abstract works. Sure, it’s a gimmick—one appropriate for Halloween and the Day of the Dead (which fell on the exhibition’s opening night). But the work also resonates with metaphorical associations, and a magnetic visual appeal. The blood (from animals, not the artist himself) is mixed with copper and captured in clear resin so that blacks, scarlets and ambers reflect out and shine within, making the works resemble glass art as much as paintings. The works point to the infinities, both of the macro—you’ll catch yourself thinking of fiery nebulae in deep space—and the micro—the cellular division apparent to the naked eye in some of these pieces continues at a microscope cellular level.
While Jeff Wallin’s work actually is glass art, these fused sheets of kiln formed glass call to mind delicately layered paper collages and traditional figure studies. The artist works directly with glass powders on a glass sheet, and the final results are full of wonderful colors and textures (including instances of cellular division that in this context seem to reference Eagles’ work) with melancholy portraits and figures rendered in what ends up looking like translucent sheets of charcoal on paper.
Finlay, adorning the gallery’s floor space is the work of sculptor Emil Alzamora. Two related pieces, covered in iron oxide, are executed to look like sarcophagi, arms welded to the torso and legs and feet forming one solid swoop. “Shell” is covered in stiff, overlapping layers, creating a fortress-like, protective shell, while “Core” looks like the revealed body within the sarcophagus, with a haunting void where the face should be. A third work, a mass of rotund forms being squeezed out of each other, is markedly different from the linear quality of the other two, but is no less corporeal. Alzamora calls it the “Venus of Venus” and it’s his exaggerated homage to the “Venus of Willendorf,” a 25,000 year-old sculpture that reminds us of just how much this art thing is in our blood.
Corpo/Ethereal, featuring work by Jordan Eagles, Emil Alzamora, and Jeff Wallin, is at Ogden’s WHITESPACE through December 30.
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.