Andrea Blum And Barry Holden

N. A. M. E. Gallery

In Robert Morris’ recent terminology, Andrea Blum uses space as “diagrammatic” and “surface-bound.” Blum says about some of her early installations-for-a-day, “I freely drew with bricks and cement.” But now she carefully plots and subdivides layouts, generating repetitive, internal rhythms. Her glass sheets, light bulbs, slate squares, and dirt layers all have a place, a rationale for being there; darkness, opacity, solidity, luminescence, transparency, and smudginess all interact within an overall system.

In contrast, using Morris’ terminology again, Barry Holden deals with three-dimensional, “undiscernible space.” His structures basically express something else: woodslat enclosure and neon “filling” are an obvious metaphor for gallery walls and spatial atmosphere. Light reflections through his containers equivocate solid architectural relationships of nearby walls, floors, and ceilings. He diplomatically works around doorways, walls, and ceiling beams, the major purpose being response to outside situations. Atypically for this show, he used a prebuilt work; yet still it was aligned with wall-plugs, windows, etc., and with another new, for-the-space unit.

In contrast, Blum holds out for ideal circumstance; she doesn’t hesitate, for example, to erect a special, sequestered room. And even though her raw materials come from our everyday outdoors, everything is marked—dirt layers are repetitively raked, fingerprints penetrate sand, distinctive personal strokes appear in otherwise standard mediums.

Even more to the point is each artist’s individual use of installation light. Blum’s bare, clinical, 150-watt floodlight bulbs are deliberately focussed. Holden’s is glowing neon—he tries spiritual exhilaration and solicits viewer personalities with a misty, immediate design. His light radiates through “crate” containers that show more flighty, casual fragility than rigidity, and when his neon’s tubes are visible to formally oppose container-lines, there still results an unsturdy, optical bouncing back and forth of the whole network.

Because of her bare-bones, rational system, the most appropriate “experiential” reaction to Blum’s work is to mentally retrace and catalog its relationships. She means to be abstract and distant and she is. Holden, on the other hand, strives for something beyond the clinical and rational and even allows for a physical interplay. Some pieces swing back and forth, some display a humming neon, some negative inlets invite a viewer’s head; but his actual communion with the viewer ranks second-fiddle to the real preoccupation of his work: its own damn beauty. The ultimate meaning of Holden’s work is how it looks.

Both artists leave the viewer isolated, Blum, in the midst of successful private reckoning, Holden, in the midst of impulsively egocentric response.

––C. L. Morrison