Exploring Depths of Experience in Arts, Letters, Science and Ideas
Challenging “Postmodern” CriticismGo Back to Table of Contents
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Much of Stryker’s work is a visual archaeology of perception in which the artist actively studies the nature of artifacts themselves. Various forms of human artifacts are re-presented in her work, producing a play on the manner in which perception is given shape, and brought to life, through art. Painting a sculpture, frieze or piece of pottery as if painting a mountain or a landscape provokes an interesting mystery. One medium holds a discourse with another as different eras engage in a lyric interplay. Time is rendered as shadow and light as Stryker opens up a dialogue of forms across the ages by ingeniously situating artifacts from various time periods on the same horizon. Thus, her work releases artifacts from the calcifying confines of historical definition, and allows them to occur simultaneously on an infinite horizon.

Rather than fragmentation, her work encourages integration, and in this criticism of art commenting on art, it becomes clear that standard art criticism is usually language commenting on what is not language. In lieu of that, Stryker’s work consists of one medium commenting on another, painting upon sculpture, canvas upon clay, color upon shadow, shade upon light. What is startling, however, is that out of such inter-media observations, each medium in-forms and expands the possibilities of the others. The three-dimensional form of pottery, for example, is now represented as an eclectic of painted forms that reveal, by being arranged in patterns of shadow and light, new perspectives on the relativity of the form of pottery itself. Three-dimensional art becomes still life, now caught in a moment of passing shadow and light. In this sense of form caught in fleeting, random, moments, one is reminded that “history” offers only one way of looking at time. Human presence also haunts time - in serendipity and spontaneity - which in Stryker’s work creates a multi-dimensional dialogue of artists who communicate by seeing the world and recording their presence and sensibility through the creation of artifacts. This kind of work is not just critically, but hermeneutically, exciting. One form gazing upon another, rising over the horizons of time, creates vital living energy as each work of art leads, suggests, points to the creation of another. As deeply as one can look into the past is as far as one can see into the future-and the result is a fathomless, inward journey of depth.

Reciprocal looking is depicted as well in Ted Weller’s art (also at the Rhode Island School of Design) in which Gemini, or twin, images are placed on the same horizon--gazing at each other’s gaze. When opposites face off, their similarity is revealed. Each image is identical to the other--in reverse. Left is right; right, left. What is at first a dizzying perceptual experience soon becomes a dissemination of the possibilities of perspective. What is dialogue in Stryker’s work becomes active dialectic in Weller’s. What emerges is art in a prism of perception.
Weller, like Stryker, offers an ingenious insight into the relationship of visual art to language by playing with the historicity and tradition of “illustration.” In the often dry, technical details of manuals, Weller distills the magical, and often overlooked, elements of illustration that have traditionally accompanied technical writing. What emerges from Weller’s play with illustration is twofold. Weller turns upside down the conversion of visual art into language--suggesting that it might be refreshing to turn to The New York Review of Books, open to a review, and see, instead of columns of words, a set of drawings commenting on a text. A good illustration suggests what the ideas, as well as the mindset, of the authors of a text “look like.” We are familiar with the platitude, “The book was better than the film”; yet seldom do we concede, “The illustrations were better than the book.” Yet Weller reveals in illustration a vision far more profound than the dead manuals they often adorned. Thus Weller’s work enriches our ability to see into the hidden language of images.

The second ingenious aspect of Weller’s play on illustration is its ability to merge the technical with the mythic. Science and art are united; the analytic and the imaginative, wedded. Through illustration, language is reunited with its mythic roots, and yet--in technical illustration--displayed with analytic precision. Thus science and art move closer toward a partnership once shared in the Renaissance.

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