Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ecstatic Occasions. Expedient Forms.

A Mirror

For the last 3 or 4 months when I've gone into Ted & Honey's for coffee in my neighborhood I've ended up talking art with this really sweet guy behind the counter. About a month ago he told me that he had an upcoming show at Lisa Cooley. I checked out the show on Sunday, and, well . . . hello there Alex Fleming. Welcome to your first solo show, and thank you for kicking my ass.

It's easy to think of Ed Ruscha when you first see Fleming's show of mirrored alphabet stickers on newsprint, but it's not a thought that'll last very long. Actually, the work made me think of my first encounter with a John Cage poem in the David Lehman-edited Ecstatic Occasions. Expedient Forms. collection. Fleming's pieces, like the Cage poem, trust the human mind and heart to pull things together. Skeletons and inversions of words tease their secrets across the newsprint surface with a rough elan. Also, there's a sculpture and a slide projector/video piece that further (and successfully) investigates the concealed and the labeled.

The secret's the thing here, but there's an expedient beauty in the newsprint pieces that acts in direct opposition to the hidden. It makes for a tasty bit of tension. Also, there's a happy accident of light that augments the mystery in these pieces. When I first looked closely, I thought that the artist had applied a translucent layer of white to create a reverse shadow of sorts that flowed from the letters. But then I wasn't so sure. I realized that the lightened surface was (Ready?) actually a reflection from the letters reflecting off the glass of the frame and back onto the paper. And here's the kicker. My perception turned back again, and I thought, "No. It's paint." Only when I spoke to to gallerist Lisa Cooley was I set straight. No paint. Just reflections. I was right the second time. Eventually, I got there. Just like a secret.

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