Lyn Blumenthal

N.A.M.E. Gallery

Lyn Blumenthal’s new installation begins with a layer of powdered and pebbled bitumen strewn over two 13-foot by 15-foot areas side by side on the gallery floor. This is a natural, chaotic, or antiform “nonarrangement,” which emphasizes the various material properties within each area’s bounds. Coal crystals reflect the light, and the powder absorbs it. Bumps and particles make a varied content that is easily bypassed in faster, nonsensual, outside-the-gallery situations—a frequent problem with Earthworks and outdoor installations.

But Blumenthal also introduces form. Across the center of one floor area a row of twigs is lined up, with white string run from one side to the other, over the twigs standing upright in the middle. Each length of string is about three inches from the next, and the resulting paths form isosceles triangles over the bitumen-base “hypotenuse.” In the second floor area, two lines of twigs are installed, not across the center, but across the right and left edges. Also in three-inch paths, the strings in this area run from one edge to the other and form unequally sided triangles, with the short side at an opposite edge each time. The string, which brings an element of order to the installation, also is emphasized as an individual element. Blumenthal focuses a video camera on one single string, whose image is magnified and “fed back” on two video receiver sets between the floor areas. Thus, an individual element is redefined. On the video screen, the string is basically taut, with lots of fuzzy protrusions, a more interesting, revealing, and concentrated view than in its installation role. In addition, the two video screens are a “presence” in the uninhabited, associatively barren, installation areas.

I admire the purposeful and poetic aspects of this piece, as well as its synthesis of opposites. The order and definition given by the video magnification and the string-paths seems to augment or point the way to the discovery of a certain visual chaos. The complex or chaotic aspects of coal material, light reflections, and twig textures contrast with the actual orderly string. One’s glance goes through the string paths and finds relief in the twinkling varieties. Rather than having a completely hypnotic effect, the repetitive string-triangles seem to “vibrate” optically against the layer of dark bitumen. In fact, opposing elements do often coexist rather than clash; and by imaginative relationship, they can also make one another more immediate. Lyn Blumenthal puts together here what other artists often split apart.

––C. L. Morrison