Black metal art critic’s take on “Paper and Clay,” Vita Art Center, Ventura
By Tom Pazderka
Dec. 7, 8:24 p.m. I pull into the darkened parking lot, car stereo blasting the heavy rage-fueled blast-beats of two-piece black metal band Inquisition’s 2013 master effort “Obscure Verses for the Multiverse.” This is how one ought to approach an art show, engorged on the sonic overload of machine-like buzz saw guitars and auditory violence. The mind clears when the ears are assaulted in this way. It is still a mystery to me how two people can produce a sound that is so full, seamless, complex and effortless at the same time through sheer simplicity. Waves of sound, pulsating, beating, atmosphere, vestiges of Sunn 0))) sped up 1,000 times with catchy hooks. I’ve arrived fully primed to take in tonight’s art exhibition at Vita Art Center in Ventura.
The show “Paper and Clay” at Vita appears to have similar attributes in visual form on a diminutive scale. One must take it all in and then focus. There is a lot to see here. Zoom in. Blasting off are the almost surreally mystical drawings of Jean-Pierre Hebert. A pioneer in computer-generated art, he’s worked in this medium since at least 1974. There is no doubt in my mind there are years upon years of perfecting the art of looking, and hand eye coordination, behind these works, even if one doesn’t know Herbert’s long and accomplished career.
Hebert is no stranger and no fool, using computer algorithms to generate heavily detailed psychedelic drawings the way that spiders produce their cobwebs once they’ve been spiked with LSD. You’ve got to get in close though. The lines are so fine you can miss them. Together they work an abstraction that is at once ethereal and impressive. That is hard to pull off.
Gail Pine’s collection of hand painted photographs deserve a long mention all their own. On a tiny scale, these works produce an atmosphere of strange claustrophobia. A backlit portrait of a family scene seems rather uncanny. The figures are blacked out and pushing forward. These could be scenes from a horror film, but the subjects are almost always mundane. Pine is not afraid of editing, simple riffs. In most of the photographs what is left is the blackness, a body part, a face, a piece of clothing. The small scale is somewhat disarming as I find myself leaning in, wanting these to be totally enveloping and consuming works of art. I am denied and that is what makes the work tick. Each one is a small mystery. Certainly the works “Family” and “Father II” have an atmosphere all their own. This is where I do most of my investigating, they draw me in, I am hooked.
Scott Gordon and Graham Moore hold their own in this show, each with small collages, referencing the worlds of pop somewhere between the 1960s and the present, or Rauschenberg, who was himself referencing Schwitters and the early Dadaists. I don’t care much for pop culture, so art that chooses to work with this subject is lost on me. But that doesn’t make it immediately not worthwhile seeing. My flag is firmly planted in the obscure lands of extreme metal subculture and each pronouncement is made from that very isolated position. Take it for what it’s worth. However, I do see that both Gordon and Moore have a good eye for design and placement, and for me that is already half the battle.
Rounding out the bill of the exhibition are Jerry Sawitz and Tanner Sawitz, a father and son, respectively. While I do not pretend to know anything about ceramics, I can tell that each piece in the show is considered and executed with a keen sense and mindful eye. But this is about as far as one can get from extreme black metal. I am out of my depth. All things pretty and delicate weigh heavy on me, like a thousand pound gorilla. I don’t know how to act in front of it. I love the sunsets, the hum of the ocean, the vastness of the West. Black metal could be a soundtrack to all those things, but so could jazz, Yanni and Kenny G.
What is the soundtrack to this show? I’m not sure, but my car ride home will be filled with the aural mayhem of…….well……Mayhem and their classic track “Freezing Moon.” \m/
“Paper & Clay” is on view from Dec. 7 to 31 at Vita Art Center, 28 West Main St., Ventura.