Unholy contraptions

By GREG COOK  |  June 23, 2010
VIEW:Images of Tavares Strachan's ''Orthostatic Tolerance''
At MIT, Strachan's theme is space — and some sea. He presents a glass rocket and the collected shards of its broken twin, a shiny steel robot space rover, a pair of crashed, three-wheeled mini-trucks facing each other as if mirror images, a cast-resin-and-steel sculpture of an empty, shattered spacesuit suspended from the ceiling, and a teensy, etched, silicon wafer said to be a model of his mom's Bahamas house as seen from space. Photos and video show Strachan riding a spinning G-force test bed at MIT (where he recently did a residency) and in a spacesuit climbing around a spacecraft submerged at the bottom of a giant water tank at the Yuri Gagarin Russian State Science Research Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow. This last stuff is unexpectedly dull, like watching someone else's raw vacation footage. (Matthew Day Jackson's show at the List last year included video of him at drag-racing school. Is this some sort of irritating trend where video art is about boys having the time, access, and/or money to screw around at fantasy camp?)

The Bahamas Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center in the rocket video is Strachan's seemingly half-serious, half-joking proposal to improve his native Bahamas. His playing astronaut points to the lack of black faces among the space-exploration ranks and perhaps nudges us toward an acknowledgment of national differences in wealth and achievement, and how they're knotted up in legacies of race and colonization. The works might call to mind the flinty, self-sufficient Rastafarian space colony Zion in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, but they also give off undertones of Space Oddity loneliness, despair, and fatalism.

This sort of conceptual art can prompt deep thoughts without your quite feeling them. Compare these works with the best piece in the show, What Will Be Remembered in the Face of All That Is Forgotten (2010), a clear-glass sculpture of the human circulatory system floating at the edge of visibility in an eight-foot-tall rectangular Plexiglas tank filled with 900 gallons of mineral oil. Part of what makes What Will Be Remembered remarkable is that, at a time when it seems fewer and fewer artists are crafting their own work, Strachan, who studied glass blowing at RISD, actually fashioned this tour de force. The figure strides forward, arms up, head thrown back, mouth agape — a fragile, sci-fi ghost whose filaments might unravel at any moment.

THE PLUNGE Strachan’s Bahamian space-age dreams allude to the legacies of race and colonialization, with undertones of Space Oddity loneliness, despair, and fatalism.
In April, Beth Kantrowitz of the now-defunct Allston Skirt Gallery and Kathleen O'Hara of the now-defunct OH+T Gallery opened Drive By, after some months of organizing one-time exhibits in building lobbies and such. It's a small, storefront space, shared with a print shop in back, on a quiet, residential Watertown street.

Their new, five-person exhibit, "The Boat Show," is a nautical-themed summer lark — fun, but lite. Celine McDonald of New York paints dinghies in deep green water, paying careful attention to how the boats' triangular shapes meet the edges of her square panel. It's all rendered with the breezy nonchalance of 1970s New Yorker covers.

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Related: Slideshow: ''Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom'' at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, The proto-web utopian consciousness of Stan VanDerBeek, Autumn blossoms: Our 10 most anticipated art shows this fall, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , List Visual Arts Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, MIT,  More more >
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