Maybe it’s a cheap conceit for a writer, but there are times when it’s necessary to state the obvious: One of art’s prime functions is to take you somewhere else.
In a riveting moment of contemplation, art conveys you to a deeper plane of thought, motivates you to cultivate an unexpected appreciation of the previously mundane and, in the best cases, inspires your own flight. This is how the works of Alonzo Davis and Stacey Evans succeed as noble platforms for intimate, introspective transport.
Alonzo Davis and Stacey Evans
Second Street Gallery
Through April 28
Featured in Second Street Gallery’s latest exhibition, both artists examine our innate desire to explore, and incorporate travel as a unifying theme of their distinct approaches. Davis’ mixed media pieces traverse eras as they recall the imposing challenge of crossing oceans, while Evans’ layered photographs transform landscapes ever-changed by humanity, documenting ephemeral views only glimpsed from behind the windows of a passenger train. Both artists share observations specific enough to call personal, yet still so vastly hatched that they support an inclusive array of divergent interpretations.
Consider the fused bamboo, encaustics and vibrant LED of “Navigation Series.” Alighting the walls of Second Street’s larger space, Davis’ works merge the elemental with the technological in his take on Micronesian navigation stick charts. Originally frameworks representing Marshall Islands waterways, the charts were traditionally the tools of individuals who would likely be the sole interpreters of their own skillful configurations; in Davis’ hands, the viewers must define the potential connotations. As captains of our own voyages, the natural and electrical maps tease at direction, hint at religious symbolism and glow with the gravity involved in choosing which way to go next.
Davis offers imprecise guidance about the hazy meanings of his designs, saying the arrangements function as “a reminder of how we navigate through the changes being brought about in 2017.” In our newfound contentious age, his point becomes clearer in the boat shapes of “From Here to There” and “Made of Immigrants.” Crafted in a similar bamboo-LED style, the titles contextualize the pieces in shallow political waters, underscoring the significance of seeking out new lands.
The “Navigation Series” also incorporates collage paintings ornamented by bamboo and animal bone-carved hand shapes; the overlapping textures of the “Reach Out Series” unify Davis’ influences from his trips through West Africa, Brazil, Haiti and the American Southwest. Proffering a distillation of travel-influenced folk art touches refracted through the lens of his Alabama upbringing, 30 years living in Los Angeles and five in Maryland, Davis invites our self-directed excursions into his abstractions.
Like Davis, travel motivates the creations of locally based photographer Evans. Capturing images of the passing terrain from trains, she’s collected an extensive stock of engaging pictures from which to choose for her fascinating technique: Photos are edited, cut into contours suggested by the subjects and overlaid to produce fresh, impossible landscapes of profound depths and ominous heights. Second Street’s Dové Gallery houses “Ways of Seeing,” Evans’ series of 2’x2′ or 3’x2′ archival pigment-enlarged prints and a smattering of hand-sized original cut photo works aptly measured in inches.
From the bright circular chads ornamenting “Miniature Constructs #1-4” to the ocean wave-like swaths of stacked skies in “Interdependence,” the works give us views of rare, absurd geology and the undiscovered fissures of overcrowded cities. And though the show’s title alludes to the subjectivity of vision, Evans’ evocative photographic collages provide the kind of worthwhile experience that no time spent following her train treks could ever replicate; these are her novel perceptions. This manifold confluence of perspectives grows an extraordinary reinvention of our world, illuminating transient vistas without any intrusion of the fantastic or aid of the computer generated. Incredibly, the banal subject matter of the images awe with the kind of surprise we tend to reserve for the blurry products of extrasolar satellites and confusing subatomic realms of multimillion-dollar electron microscopes.
“Rubble in America” piles trash upon more trash, “American Dumpster” drops a crowded trailer lot over a desert scene, and “Artifacts Left Behind” deploys a tiered automotive graveyard amassed beneath a raised freeway overpass; all three deftly reflect Evans’ railway vantages, the umbral portions of our national corridors and the unpleasant byproducts of our wanderlust, hardly requiring commentary beyond photo and title.
Zooming in for the “Shift in Perspective” pieces, the close-up works downplay or obscure the original subjects altogether by emphasizing the shapes of her cut photos. The resulting compositions improvise with forms and colors in an exploration of unfamiliar surfaces and kaleidoscopic atmospheres whipped up right in her studio.
Equipped with precious trophies snatched from her expeditions, Evans says that she usually starts her collage photo pieces “with a Pandora station and a pair of scissors.” Simple. But that’s all she needs to take us over the next horizon.