Currently at Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art is the show “Plainsight, Plainspoken” by Corey Antis and Anna Neighbor. Although the title of the exhibit implies the mundane or the regular, the work focuses on a variety of forms and ideas that explore the uncanny and strange. This show was originally assembled for a gallery in Kansas City, but the present manifestation includes brand new work by both artists.
Antis fills the center of the room with a wooden table held aloft by two wooden horses, making is appear more like a workbench than an art display. On its surface rest seven wooden sculptures which variously look like either rocks or books. The rocks are pieced together so that the wooden layers of various hues resemble sediment and layers of geological history. While rings on trees and core samples seem similarly useful to scientists, the wooden version provides a much shorter time scale. All of the surfaces of these faux-stones are smooth as if weathered by years of creek erosion (or a belt sander). The books are closer to their true nature – wooden books compared to wood-pulp pages – although they are solid and impossible to open. They also call to mind the quickly-becoming-archaic medium of reading from paper. With no way to open these tomes, and potentially a generation with no attention span to read from them, their stacks of information become more and more like sandstone.
The paintings by Antis are much more abstract, consisting of scraped pigments and mottled combinations of color. An orange trapezoid hides behind a gray triangle in “Untitled (II),” their hard lines and overlapping geometries forming sharp, less recognizable polygons. “Untitled (Tablet)” demonstrates a similar orange/gray layering, but here the center of the wavy rectangle portrayed a circle vaguely reminiscent of a fisheye lens.
Neighbor includes a few pieces which dissect the nature of art and the universe in humorous and questionable ways. In “Chewing the Most Distant Object in the Universe,” Neighbor does exactly that. After printing an image of a very distant, celestial body, the artist chewed the picture and hung the crumpled photo on the wall. It represents both something intangible and mind-bogglingly far out as well as something visceral and positively bestial. Another photo of wispy clouds high up in the sky was accented by Neighbor’s 6-year-old daughter using black charcoal. In the sky blue and white image, the black lines contrast harshly as they trace bits of the vapor patterns. The addition would seem somewhat aggressive if not for its inclusion by a child, calling to mind questions of innocence and intent.
Elsewhere Neighbor displays a photograph of a hand grasping a pencil entitled “An Attempt.” The long, horizontal frame is much larger than the image, presenting a field of black felt which, with the glass in front, acts as a (perhaps unintentional) mirror, reflecting the viewer’s likeness and posterior street view across the entire image. A scatological video scrutinizing overly picky photography rounds out Neighbor’s segment of the show which all seems to ask us how much control an artist has in creating their craft and perhaps how much power any one of us truly possesses.
Rebekah Templeton will be showing “Plainsight, Plainspoken” through February 23.
Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art is located at 173 West Girard Ave., Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; rebekahtempleton.com.