Peter Gabriel had world music. Sting had the rainforests.
At mid-career, curator Lawrence Rinder may have spirituality tied up. And like Gabriel's attempt to bring the harmonies of international song to the West, we are better for it.
Rinder, dean at CCA and an independent curator, has put together Three Related Exhibitions, a trio of shows at the three-storied Meridian Gallery. Its hard to say exactly what ties the shows together besides a lightly tempered spirit of optimism, and an undercurrent of concentrated thinking.
Form + is the show that surrounds you upon entering Meridian. Rinder has gathered together a sextet of local abstractionists that set a rather loose tone for the subsequent shows. All the work exudes sincerity, which is good. Occasionally, they burst with other worldiness, which is even better. Glowing with a slightly clumsy feeling, Todd Bura's small panels manage to squeeze out a little bit of warmth -- pretty rare for paintings that are done in a primary palette of black & white. But Bura's intentions, earnest as they may be, are hindered by their size. Their smallness can come off as downright corny. On the other hand, Dean Smith, whose pencil drawings are only marginally bigger than Bura's paintings, builds up images with such intricacy and discipline that the results are stratospheric. Within seconds you are lost in the maze of his line, swirling around and around in its various associations.
While Form + staunchly engages in art dialogs that were crafted and honed by Western thought, Dhyána, on the second floor, speaks a whole different language. This selection of contemporary Tantric drawings, most about the size of a placemat, were gathered in India by French poet Franck André Jamme. The gouache and ink pictures were done as aids for meditation -- kinda like spiritual cue cards. And therein lies the problem. Like Peter Gabriel's presentation of world music to Anglo rock'n'rollers, the Tantric drawings can only be approached, at least in a gallery setting, within the context of the West. Its hard not to look at the pictures and relate elements of them to various art historic moments -- like minimalism, stoner art, and constructivism. Luckily, there is an elegance of spirit and an unflinching grace at their core that lingers long after you leave their presence.
Floor three is the home to Franck André Jamme: New Exercises, a room chock full of numerous identically-sized mirrors. The rectangular mirrors, hand-framed in white wood and small enough to be dropped into a purse, are lightly painted by Jamme with slightly enigmatic phrases. Lacking spaces between the words, these poems are lettered in a grid reminiscent of Chris Wool. The phrases can be cloying to no end though, such as "to sense that the eye in fact never chooses anything," and are only occasionally engaging, like "To cut off regularly one's own head."
Three Related Exhibitions runs concurrently with Rinder's Shahrokh Yadegari: Through Music, at the Magnes. Shahrokh Yadegari, a tribute to Rinder's grandfather (a celebrated cantor at Temple Emanu-El), is a meditative sound installation that merges Jewish and Islamic musical traditions.
The artworld can be a snide place. Nowhere more so than here. But the work of Lawrence Rinder reminds us that it can also be a place that offers intergalactic tours with chances to leave this world, if only for a moment, for something better. And maybe we'll meet the Almighty along the way.
All three exhibitions are at the Meridian Gallery through May 3, 2008.