Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yes. We've Got Contact.

This has happened more than once. I think I'm getting jaded because I'm so immediately turned off by just about everything that I'm seeing; and then, out of the blue, I come across something that puts all my self-doubts to rest.

I attended the DUMBO Arts Festival back in October. I usually find work I like at Smack Mellon or the DAC so I was optimistic. The performance piece with an electric guitar and many leotarded bodies in the Fulton Ferry Park should have been all the warning I needed, but what can I say. Sometimes I'm too hopeful for my own good. At any rate, I started looking. And looking. And loooooking. Nothing was turning my crank. The videos at Smack Mellon and the text-based works at DAC left me cold. I never found the Space 1026 installation. I just was not being moved. That's when I started to question myself. Am I seeing too much art? Have I become jaded? Was I experiencing some kind of general art fatigue? Walking around the arts festival I certainly felt fatigued.

That's about the time I was stopped in my tracks. (That's when it always happens, isn't it?) Suddenly, I was having a one of those mini Stendhal moments, and everything was going to be just fine. There, on the sidewalk, was a collection of pieces that immediately grabbed me. If there's one thing I've learned in all my art viewing it's to always obey that pull. It tells me just about everything I'm ever going to need to know about the work.

Turns out that it was the work of a Pratt student, Vannessa Bucci. She wasn't even part of the festival. I should have known. She paid for a permit to sell her work on the street. Other people with street permits were selling jewelry and scarves. Bucci did not fit into that category, and she certainly didn't fit in with all the bad art in the festival. So, maybe it was perfect that I found her out on the sidewalk. Or maybe it was just typical.

Whatever. It kicked me in the head and then some. I can't say that I completely understand the process, but the end result is a wonderful thing. Using photo etching and silk screening she creates work that is as delicate as it is caustic, as jagged as it is inviting. Disembodied wrists and hands reach for laptops, viruses, bad text. All the things we're touching while we're not touching.

Bucci exploits our overload. We can't come to her. We're too locked in, too hooked up. So, the artist comes to us in a place where are wrists are numb, our eyes are bleary, and our hearts are aching. She comes to us, finds her way into the house, and drops our baggage inside the door. If we're lucky we'll trip over it in the morning.

Yes. It's a viewpoint we've seen before, but is that a bad thing? It's something we humans seem to need to be reminded of, constantly. One way or another, the best art always reminds us to wake up, lest we become the ghosts sleeping in our own machines. You can agree with Bucci or not. It certainly won't take away from the beauty of her work. There is a deft hand at work here, and I'm glad it found me.

Vanessa Bucci is having a exhibition of her work at the 240 East Gallery on the Pratt Institute campus, 2000 Willoughby Ave., from Dec. 5 through Dec. 9.

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