The Green Show
Cartography, chlorophyll, cash
by Laura Bien
Dainty $3 bills, a busty wood nymph, toy soldiers making a PB&J, and about sixty other works exploring the theme of "green" fill Work Gallery, and they're made of everything from sewn leaves, Coleman fuel, credit card snippets, chalkboards, applesauce, and sand to guacamole Pringles, mulberry, fake hair, a map of Greenland, a Google map, a nineteenth-century plat map of Washtenaw County, green books, an optical illusion, satin, Iranian poetry, wire bits vibrated into patterns by a speaker, printed wood, carved wood, and even you know, photography.
Amy Zhong's uncut sheet of $3 bills one of a number of works interpreting "green" as "cash" displays the words "three dollars" in a font you might see on a fashion designer's wedding invitation. The work seems to riff on the weird mishmash of eye-pyramids and other symbols sprinkling legit currency, with a poised, incongruous pastiche of a floating, empty triangle, a lush lily flower, a semicrescent, and arranged rocks.
Page Redford combines a large freehand painting of a $1 bill with a shelf of roly-poly clay critters hand painted with imagery from dollar bills and clutching twinkly little hearts and stars scissored from credit cards, and eight-pointed origami stars made from repro dollars. Set amid some green pipe cleaner trees, the creatures suggest the joy of spending money.
Joy also radiates from Rachel Throop's felted-wool wood nymph, who beams from a vertically rectangular green wool pouch. As her uplifted arms transform into branches, her long white hair ripples downward into a flutter of carmine leaves.
Other works exploring "green" as "nature" include Michelle Panars's Invasion, spread along the stairwell leading to the gallery's basement. Suggesting a swath of stegosaurus skin made up of wrinkly rosettes, the work consists of several dozen pads of layered leaves sewn together and allowed to dry into curls.
Downstairs are fifteen additional works, including a satin-hung room with painted Arabic calligraphy and headphones broadcasting a whispery Iranian poem, and a
fifteen-minute loop of eight short films. In one, stop-motion dirt swirls into patterns. In another, a naked man makes himself a leaf-crown and runs through the woods. Stop-motion toy soldiers invade a kitchen and, in strict military formation, abscond with two comparatively huge jars of peanut butter and jelly, and then prepare a sandwich for their human taskmaster. There's also Verde: The Greening of Electrons, which features a breathy voice reading a poem with odd emphases and heavy pauses, as lines of text move portentously across the screen.
My favorite work, though, was featherlight a yard-high, seven-millimeters-wide, unframable sliver of map called Slice of Greenland, by "Uncle Art," the alter ego of U-M School of Art & Design exhibitions codirector and part-time sprite Mark Nielsen.
The works are on display through Friday, November 9.
[Review published November 2007]