Charleston

Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

The desire to create forms via chance and natural phenomena is reflected in the works in Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature at Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite a disparate range of formats, including porcelain sculpture, complex wire installations, and color aquatints, this exhibition brings together a wide array of works that originate from a process-based practice and share connections to indeterminacy.

Invariant Interval, 2013; installation view, Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature, 2015. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Alyson Shotz. Invariant Interval, 2013. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Among the most dramatic works in the show is Shotz’s Invariant Interval (2013). Made of silver wire threaded with handmade glass beads, the work seems to float in midair. In fact, it appears to be breathing, gradually expanding and contracting in response to the passing of viewers and currents of air. This reaction to its own environment is perhaps its strongest quality. The tiny beads reflect light as the piece subtly shifts in space, resulting in a glimmering quality that is dependent on the interaction of light and glass.

Alyson Shotz, Force of Nature, 2015; installation view, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Alyson Shotz. Force of Nature, 2015; installation view, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Installed in the same gallery, Frames per Second (2011) also interacts with viewers who pass by. Covering a wall approximately twenty feet long by seven feet high, the installation consists of tiny strips of mirrored acrylic that create a highly distorted reflection of the gallery. Ostensibly an homage to Eadweard Muybridge’s early documentations of movement, the work also has a contemporary resonance as it reflects our fractured state of being—one that is often broken up into frames, pixels, or bytes. Frames per Second functions similarly to Invariant Interval—it requires the interaction of viewers in order to succeed.

Recumbent Folds, #25-28, 2013; installation view, Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature, 2015. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Alyson Shotz. Recumbent Folds, #25-28, 2013. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Other works in the show, while not as grandiose, exemplify Shotz’s process-based practice. Among these are Recumbent Folds #25–28 (2013), four post-minimalist ceramic vessels displayed on a reclaimed piece of wood. Shotz uses porcelain—a material known for its fragility—and shortly after forming each piece, she drops it on the floor. The resulting works show the compression from the impact, which enables her to combine the delicate nature of the material with the force of her process. In addition to exploring the particular qualities of any given medium she employs, Shotz also embraces the role of chance in her systems-oriented practice.

More works follow in this vein: Topographic Iteration (2013–2014) consists of a series of three-dimensional photographic prints. Shotz crumples up a large piece of white paper, photographs it, and then crumples the resulting print again, which is finally displayed. The resulting work’s subdued aesthetics are complemented by the knowledge of the artist’s process, as well as the fact that six iterations of this series are shown together. Likewise, the series Sequent (2011) consists of pieces of paper folded in various arrangements before being run through an aquatint press. The results are abstract forms produced in varying shades of color.

Topographic Iteration, 2013-14; installation view, Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature, 2015. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

Alyson Shotz. Topographic Iteration, 2013-2014. Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC. Photo: Rick Rhodes.

The sole video in the show exists somewhat incongruously to the rest of the work. The Bedroom, Time Lapse (2014) is a beautifully rendered video of a time-lapsed bedroom scene, which is essentially a CGI version of Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom (1889), an homage explained by the gallery text as well as Shotz’s own description of the work. Light from the window circulates around the room as the sun rises and sets; the room also floods with water at one point, apparently inspired by the artist’s own studio being flooded by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. While the work is nonspecific in a way that allows viewers to project their own narrative, the video seems out of place amid a gallery of process-based works. Likewise, though the van Gogh reference is also certainly intriguing for the video work itself, it is hard to reconcile his name being broached within a gallery of such work.

The Bedroom, Time Lapse, 2014 (animation still); digital animation; 27 minutes, 49 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Alyson Shotz. The Bedroom, Time Lapse, 2014 (animation still); digital animation; 27:49. Courtesy of the Artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Nevertheless, the exhibition thrives on its responsiveness and its ability to contextualize works that are process-oriented. Elucidating the aesthetic decisions that go into these works, the exhibition allows viewers to not only study the intricate forms Shotz has created, but to wonder how she produced them, and to imagine the degree of chance or nature in each. While some works are subdued aesthetically and others are fabricated with common materials, the exhibition succeeds in expanding their intrigue.

Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature is on view at Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art through July 11, 2015.

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