A Two-Person Show Decades in the Making at Arting Gallery
Pat Alexander, “Even the Stars,” as installed in Taiwan for Biennial Paper Fiber Art: Eco-Sublime”, l’Association Chaîne de Papier in 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This, the gallery’s second show, is a no less striking feast for the eyes and mind. For Pat Alexander’s part, rocks, boulders, and celestial spheres cascade, ascend, and float. Beautifully. They suggest motion every which way, except in a horizontal line. That’s Labadie’s domain.    

As if caught in a tornado, one of Alexander’s largest, most ambitious sculptures, “Even the Stars” (2016)—which is unfortunately not in this show—features tons of boulders appearing to swirl. Tons? Spoiler alert: if you do reps with this alchemist’s boulders, you won’t look any better on the beach. Pat constructs the rocks out of abaca/cotton paper pulp. They’re hollow. The artist masterfully textures, shapes, and pigments them, and they’re pretty much weightless. But they’re substantial, visually and conceptually. Her work brings up a slew of heavy-duty issues involving polarities: illusion/reality, permanence/fragility, groundedness/ethereality, seriousness/absurdity, outdoors/indoors, winsome/cataclysmic.    

Inspired by a trip to Laramie, Wyoming, where she saw piles of ancient rocks—indeed, 70 million years worth of ancient—Alexander started molding and pigmenting her own rock forms. The artist’s varied, paper-thin boulders sometimes look dangerous. But mainly they look real and gloriously handsome.  

Boulders in the installation “Even the Stars” teeter overhead, sticking out of their upside-down conical cage as if it sprang boulder-size leaks. The rocks loomed so menacingly that I tiptoed the first time I saw it in the gallery at VisArts Rockville, Maryland in 2016 (it’s also been exhibited in Taiwan), fearing that if I walked too heavily, they’d crash and crush.  

Another of Alexander’s tour de force projects at Arting is “Falls,” a large wall-relief grouping of smaller hand-fabricated rocks. Two earlier iterations of this work were exhibited in The Hague, Netherlands and here in Baltimore at MICA, where both she and Labadie were esteemed teachers for many years. These projects involve a waterfall of rocks. If you view the rock forms together, and if you appreciate them as sounds, imagining the intervals between as rhythmical and syncopated silences or beats, “Falls” is music for the mind’s ear.    

 

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