Craigslist Missed Connections and the Paradox of Progress Highlighted in Two Art Shows

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There are two very disparate exhibits running through Saturday, August 15, at the Ice Cube Gallery co-op. And both are interesting in their own ways.

In the spaces to the right of the entrance is Binaries, a three-part installation by Ice Cube member Linda Graham, who collaborated with her grandson, S. Fletcher Graham. The Grahams are working with the idea that progress involves a paradox: it contains within it both good and bad aspects.

The first part of the installation is a large space filled with fine-grained coal slag; several abstract sculptural elements (carved by John McEnroe) have been poetically placed around the pile of black slag. On the back wall is a mural dominated by dark tones. The next section includes dozens of “flying” transparent plastic forms suspended from the ceiling. There is also a spire rising from the floor; it is made of plastic sheets, similar to the ones that have been stacked nearby like dinner plates. Called “Resilience," this part is as dazzling as the first part is subtle. The parable the Grahams are laying out concludes in the back gallery with a video of rocket ships.

So for the Grahams, the same society that fouls the environment with fossil fuels, can also devise technologies to actually leave the planet. I have to point out that this is a two-stage message by two artists. This double duality is reinforced by the title, Binaries, but it unfolds unpredictably in three parts. Despite this messiness, it is downright compelling in places.

Opposite is an unusual conceptual=photography show, Missed Connections, featuring the work by up-and-coming artist Paul Sisson. In the past, Sisson has created work revealing that he had rapidly absorbed the contemporary tradition in Colorado landscape photography. This new work represents both a break from that and an advance on it.

What Sisson has done is to have scoured Craigslist posts from the “Missed Connections” section where people make postings hoping to meet up with someone they’ve seen in passing, like on a train or at restaurant. Sisson pairs the found ad, which he has printed up and affixed to boards, with photos inspired by the narrative in the plaintive posts. It’s a good idea, though some of them are more successful than others.

The strongest were those that marked a complete break with his earlier landscape work, and featured people in them, since the point of “Missed Connections” is to meet up with people. The winning formula, in which the narrative and photo match, is seen in pieces like “Saw You at LuLu’s,” where a man with his back turned is standing in front of a sign-festooned fence on the bar’s patio. Or the marvelous “Costco eye contact and smile," set at the checkout stand of the big box store.

The Grahams and Sisson have produced work worthy of our attention, but there’s just a few days left to check them out at Ice Cube Gallery, 3320 Walnut Street. Go to IceCubeGallery.com for more information.

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