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Monday, February 9, 2009

Now See Here: Kevin Harris Installation at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, February 6, 2009

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 5:24 PM

On Friday, February 6, Kevin Harris debuted Move, a trio of multimedia installations at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts. Entitled Exercise/Execution, the show's gauntlet-like centerpiece consisted of the functioning base of a dismantled treadmill slowly turning on an elevated, neon-illuminated Lucite platform, mountable via steps covered in orange felt. At the end of this short trip lay a bed of nails lit by cheap red desk lamps. The apparatus was cordoned off with velvet ropes on stanchions and book-ended by foam-lettered signs that read "I'm scared of execution" and "I'm scared of exercise."

click to enlarge JACQUELINE WALLACH
  • Jacqueline Wallach

Outside the gallery, most passersby seemed to second these sentiments, peering hesitantly through the windows of the low-glowing Gondo, then opting to follow the yellow rope taped to the Cherokee Street sidewalk that connected the gallery space to the cheap wine-drinking Blagojevich musical-going crowd at the Tin Ceiling Theater, the chocolate samplers at Metalsmithing Collective Local 3211's Valentine jewelry and chocolate sale and those browsing the merchandise and Eric Gray's new paintings at City Art Supply.

Still, the modest and affable Harris, an Oklahoma native who earned his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, seemed pleased. Move marks his first show in town -- he moved here four years ago -- and is, as he sees it, a rare opportunity to review and experiment with work otherwise relegated to the hermetic confines of his studio or to the formal perimeters of gallery spaces in Chicago, where he has exhibited previously. Trained in musical composition and studio art, Harris works as an electrical engineer for Midcoast Aviation and makes art primarily as a private endeavor -- a fact that he believes is important to the work.

click to enlarge JACQUELINE WALLACH
  • Jacqueline Wallach
Abundance When Everyone Disappears, a video flanked by stacks of plastic crates in primary colors, was a half-slapstick, half-David Lynch synthesis of the repetitive futility of the daily, professional grind and the surreal absurdity of the solitary, creative life. It filled the gallery with the atonal aural equivalent of these debacles (a soundtrack generated by instruments Harris himself crafted). One gallery-goer plugged her ears with her fingers. Another visitor, draped in fabrics as a mock sheik, crouched and began sniffing one of Harris' pieces, dog-style. Someone else strolled in, arms crossed, sporting a kilt.

click to enlarge JACQUELINE WALLACH
  • Jacqueline Wallach
In the gallery's far corner stood the evening's third element, You Will Never Be Free, a video projection on a water-soaked canvas depicting a sand castle slowly eroding. The sound of the water pooling in a tin bucket beneath the canvas conversed with the sound of the slow-grinding treadmill. Amid all that wasn't discussed, these two elements seemed to have plenty to say to one another.

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