The particular built look of a piece of art does not come entirely from the material directly, but is created from the way the material is combined with itself, added to itself, and shaped in and among itself. Perhaps this idea is most apparent in work that uses a particular material, replicated over and over.
At SITE Santa Fe’s current exhibition, Unsuspected Possibilities, three artists combine their work, using combinations of materials. In the replication of materials, these works remind the viewer that art is often a repetitive process, a building-up of form from smaller elements, that once combined together take on a new and larger aesthetic existence.
Marie Watt creates hanging tapestries from reclaimed blankets and other fiber material. The stitches, thread pushed through and over itself in loops and embroidered patterns, trace across a medium that is, itself, thread. Ribbons and other material hang off the hanging blankets. And then together, the different pieces interact to form a structure–a longhouse, presented in silhouette, construed from the multiplicities of work hanging from the ceiling, together more than the sum of their parts.
Leonardo Drew’s abstract sculptures are built from wood and other found objects. Impressive in size and scope, the wall mounted pieces like “Number 163” are not necessarily comprised of large materials, but through the repetition of smaller pieces, a large structure is created.
At first glance, Sarah Oppenheimer’s contribution to the show is in a very different mode. The artist literally cut holes in the walls, and then with mirrors and glass, manufactured new viewpoints on the other work by allowing viewers to peer through the walls, to look at reflections of the work, and to let one’s eyes bend around corners. But in the same way as Watt and Drew, Oppenheimer takes component elements of the aesthetic experience–the gaze, the moving vantage point of stroll around the gallery, and even the gallery’s structure itself–and combines these present aesthetic elements in new ways. While Drew creates capstone structures against walls, and Watt creates presence and blocks vantages with hanging cloth, Oppenheimer breaks through once again, opening up light and sightlines.
In Unsuspected Possibilities, the viewer is woven through these works, which have a better interplay in theme and aesthetic than most group shows. It is not that the works or the artists are similar, but it is that together their works overlap like a spread deck of cards, creating combination of looks and feelings that would not have emanated from a single work alone. They not only produce their individual works, which are no less successful singularly–but together they sculpt the space of the gallery. It is a possibility not entirely unsuspected, but one thoroughly enjoyed.