Flat Feat

Flat Feat

Even with its Open Source festival barely concluded, Artspace is keeping busy. Two exhibitions rail against particular notions of our social and economic condition, calling out with their audio components, drawing visitors rightward into the largest gallery or rearward into the smallest.

Actually, that rear space is now the second-smallest. The first-smallest, as of October 21, is Artspace’s Flatfile, which, with an inaugural exhibition called For your consideration…, has been converted from a storage space into a gallery space, even while being comparable in volume to a consumer refrigerator.

What was once filled with a jumble of pieces by more than 100 local artists—not that it wasn’t fun to sift through—is, for the moment, graced with works by just seven, each given their own drawer. The objects inside, numbering between one and a handful per artist, no longer crowd together like disoriented moshers. Now they repose on velvety black fabric, unpiled and spaced out, making them easier to see and, under plexiglass, harder to mishandle.

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Of course, a certain amount of handling is necessary. You need to pull the drawers open, ideally with light, even pressure from both hands to avoid misaligning the metal or loosing the plexiglass. And you can feel freer to do that now that the Flatfile has been brought out into the main gallery area. In an accompanying pamphlet, curator Gabriel Sacco puts that decision into philosophical relief: “The file stores work to protect it, not to hide it.” In a similar spirit of not hiding things, he says he’s chosen to give exposure to work by “New Haven artists outside of extant art world hierarchies.”

Sure enough, most of the artists were new to me. Austen Kim’s whimsically drawn study of Icarus, an engraving made by Hendrick Goltzius in 1588, occupies the first (top) drawer. Whereas Goltzius’s version reads like a fairly straightforward depiction of the tragic fall at the heart of the myth, Kim’s version is more stylized and maybe comical, as if the man isn’t facing his doom but rather the embarrassment of a pratfall.

Demonstrating how different any two drawers can be, the Flatfile’s second compartment contains four of Jason Ting’s ghostly blue swirls on black along with an iPad capable of cycling through other images. The pamphlet identifies Ting’s method as digital animation, though the swirls of light are so convincing that I’d have guessed they were made with slow-shutter photography.

Other drawers carry various delights. Janet Warner’s line, color and shape studies made with paint and ink; Michael Corey’s thick, epoxied slabs of flattened seashells, flower petals and other materials; and Esthea Kim’s checkered latticeworks, deceptively simple in their alternating frequencies of color and texture, seem to harken to the days when artists were more consumed by aesthetic investigations and pleasures than point-making. D. Douglas’s painting #AllThisPower, on the other hand, might be making a point to go with its aesthetic pleasures, depicting three African women almost featureless in their bodies but clarified, respectively, by traditional neck rings, a head wrap and stretched ears.

The seventh and final artist (fourth if going by the drawers) seems to exist outside the brief to choose work by institutionally unsupported people: the long-established photographer Linda Lindroth, who has gallery representation and a seven-page CV. Not that I’m complaining. Vision, her piece here, is titled after its subject, which features that word in ribboned script across a shimmering, antiquarian pink box top. It’s part of Lindroth’s brain-teasing “Trickster in Flatland” series, in which she flattens packaging (as you would if you were saving space in the recycling bin) and nonetheless renders it in highly resolved, so-real-you-could-touch-it 3D.

Perhaps Lindroth was included in For your consideration… because her “Flatland” series and Artspace’s new Flatfile concept address the same paradox. What does it mean to be flat in three dimensions? File that question away for your next visit to Artspace.

For your consideration…
Artspace – 50 Orange St, New Haven (map)
Wed-Sat noon-6pm through April 21, 2023
(203) 772-2709

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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