Sunday, September 29, 2019

Serious Games

For his solo exhibition Finding Way at Antenna, Rontherin Ratliff has selected fifteen pieces to fill the gallery located on the building's second floor. They reflect his current practice inspired by his childhood and in keeping with his previous body of work are made of found objects and architectural material. Hung on the walls, the assemblages are of small to moderate size giving an intimate flavor to the show.
Three pieces from 2017, the artist's statement and a wall text, introduce the exhibition in the anteroom-like space at the entrance, and lead to recent works done this year. White Horse is a composition made of a wooden toy leaping out of a box suspended to the right side of a gate painted in gold. The fence draws a frame around an empty space and brings the focus to the off centered toy. Black Horse is almost identical, the horse this time gallops toward the box, showing his rear. The joyful pieces evoke a carousel and allude to childhood's dreams. On the other side of the gallery along the back wall, Heirloom, is a more elaborate monochrome assemblage of discarded furniture and objects covered by a heavy coat of black paint. A draped quilt adds a homey feminine touch to the funerary piece. A total of seven Mind Splinters are displayed in the gallery. The painted wood sticks decorated with found objects evoke homemade toy swords. Alphabetical Playscape and AlphaBollock Balance incorporate a sphere made of alphabet wood blocks. The two pieces facing each other are elegant in their simplicity with the former combining gate and lock, the latter a sash window weight as a counterbalance. The artist includes void (negative space) to fill gates, doors, frames and asymmetry in most of his latest compositions.
How can you build a future without a past? Since hurricane Katrina, Ratliff has been repurposing objects to reconstruct the past and rebuild memories. For example, in Perception or Self-Defense, 2017, mattress springs become relics protected by etched glass and are laid into wood boxes decorated with antique window sash weights looking like tassels. Most recently, he explores the world of childhood filled with dreams fed by unbound imagination and further, the passage of time and the fragility of life, through a conceptual language that not only brings up ideas but also tickles emotions. The self-taught artist has assimilated conceptual art to create simple playful compositions filled with rich meanings.
Titles matter and looking at the series of Mind Splinters, I thought about this quote:
“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind …”
~ Morpheus, in ‘The Matrix’ 

photographs by the author:

"Emotional Symptoms", 2017
"Alphabetical Playscape", 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Myths Up To Date

Greek mythology is a boundless source of inspiration for poets, musicians, playwrights and visual artists with its tales of love, tragedies, deceits, rapes and other monstrosities about the deeply entwined lives of gods and mortals. In Gorgo at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Lala Raščić revisits the story of three tragic female characters in the context of feminism. Born in Sarajevo, the artist is dividing her time between Zagreb, where she attended the Academy of Fine Arts, and New Orleans. She is known for her performances, installations, videos, sculpture-artifacts, drawings and held previous shows at Good Children Gallery in New Orleans. The solo exhibition fills the Center's main gallery with three videos, a reflective glass installation, sculptural objects, drawings and photographs.
Blinded by the local sunshine, it takes a few minutes to accommodate to the darkness of the windowless space. A floor installation made of drawings on glass projects shadows of masks and other artifacts on two opposite walls through a play of lights. Paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs are scattered throughout the vast space divided by temporary partitions.
The stories of Arachne, Electra and Medusa provide a loose plot for the scripts of the three videos projected on large screens. EE-O, 2018, features Arachne (Raščić) the victim, weaving her way into a science fiction heroine. The slow and monotonous monologue gives emphasis to the spoken words also available in a brochure laying on the bench facing the screen. The images are hypnotic and the artist's performance flawless. The Eumenides, 2014, a piece in three acts based on Jean Paul Sartre's famous play The Flies, starts with a close-up of the lone artist looking straight at the camera to address the viewer. Reversing the traditional use of male actors to play female roles, she is Orestes the "king without a kingdom". In contrast, act two featuring the Furies is a fast paced succession of multicolored masks grimacing while rapping. The third act is about Electra, the winner. Wearing a cloak elegantly draped like an antique sculpture, her head crowned by a delicate crocheted headband,  she represents status and power. From the stage, she is haranguing an invisible crowd, sharing her wisdom. Energized by her exhortations to resistance, the cheers of the chorus build up chanting "Elect Electra". The third video in color is about Gorgo, a made-up character by the artist who resurrects Medusa with a new body. Wearing breastplate, mask, shield, she is also connected to sensors. Triggered by her body and armor, they generate sounds reverberating in the gallery. The cyborg adopts warrior-like poses and stares defiantly behind the mask, fearless. I chose to conclude my visit on this lasting image.
Filled with references to mythology, Ovid's Metamorphoses, modern plays, the Xenofeminist Manifesto, ..., the exhibition is challenging and requires some brushing up before the visit to fully appreciate it. A flyer is available at the entrance to refresh our memory and provide clues about the show which takes time to absorb. Two of the videos are about thirty minutes long and can be viewed regardless of their chronological order. The solo show is supported by a number of contributors: a Bosnian poet, a Serbian academic for texts and scripts, the only Bosnian female blacksmith for props, and three local artists for punctual performances.
The multi-talented artist, who also performed live in previous venues reaches a wide audience as she rejuvenates the myths we grew up with in light of the Me Too Movement.
In doing so, Raščić appears fearless like her heroins.

photographs by the author