Sunday, February 8, 2009
Nancy Oakes - Walking
For those of you unfamiliar with the cell gallery, it is actually a small room that is within Gallery 1313, and unlike it's cavernous big brother it allows the artist and the viewer a special intimacy with the work. Nancy Oakes has certainly put the space to good use.
Walking is a multi media exhibit that uses sound, drawing and written word as a palette. Even though three different experiences are available I never felt crowded or overwhelmed by it all. The subtle on the slushy street walking sounds, writings on the wall and small drawings, taken from a note pad, all play on each others' sparse intent.
First the sound, as it was what started the walking experience and no matter what else I was experiencing in the exhibit it was always there. Nancy had gone out on the urban winter street walking in the sloshing of slush carrying her trusty little digital recording device with her, picking up all the walking sounds of urbanites going about their daily lives, and even picking up snippets of conversations. She had cleverly mounted her device and a couple of small speakers on a shelf over the doorway , so, as you enter the room you don't see the source, it just becomes the narrator to walking.
Another clever tool Nancy uses is written word. She had invite people to write about their experiences with walking. She even got a response from a person who is wheelchair bound. She pinned all of these responses onto a wall all on their own. This really punctuated for me the 3 tiered procession of the exhibit .
The third tier of course being the visual. Before I discuss the actual pieces I would like to comment on how they were hung. It was indeed a pleasure to see someone take the time and effort to hang these pieces in a way that lead me to believe there really was no other way to hang the show. Each piece carefully placed with even spacing, level, and without the visual trickery of hanging them in some cryptic shape.
Each of these loose, gestural drawings of people walking contained an element of immediacy, as though a snapshot taken with stop time precision. Further to their immediate nature is the fact they were each done on small notepad paper that the artist could easily fit into a pocket. Taken out only at the right moment to capture the walk as it is that very second. Nancy also had over washed each drawing with tea to give them a sepia mist, and then froze them in time with wax.
Although I have separated each element of this exhibit for the purpose of this article, it really must be understood that each element of the walk are indeed like ingredients in a good soup and make a pleasing melange.