Alicia Adamerovich: Vibrant Matter at FISK

Review

Alicia Adamerovich: Vibrant Matter at FISK

By Sebastian Zinn December 18, 2019

Multi-disciplinary artist Alicia Adamerovich brings a potent mix of anthropomorphism, wit, and technical facility to Vibrant Matter, her recent solo exhibition at FISK in Portland, Oregon. Familiar motifs from Adamerovich’s earlier paintings reappear in the works on view: Rorschach blots, flowers, surreal landscapes, butterflies, moth-like figures, and luminous, tubular entities. All of the works on view in Vibrant Matter are graphite on paper, save one sculptural installation: an ominous gothic coffee table with an array of CNC objects displayed on its surface, placed just off-center on the gallery floor. Titled Clarissa (2019), its humanoid name is one of several features which give the object an uncanny, animate quality: its table-top and legs approximate the shape of the insect wings and limbs in the artist’s illustrations, while its thin, tar-black varnish correlate to the graphite cross-hatching of her drawings. The sculpture elicits the sense that the two-dimensional figures which populate Adamerovich’s drawings are manifesting themselves in the three-dimensional world, occupying the space of the gallery alongside the viewer.

Imagined and unsettling narratives shape Adamerovich’s work. Romancing The Papilionoidea (2019), for example, depicts a gothic moth-like creature suspended upside down beneath a desk lamp that is covered with tentacles. The lamp attracts the moth’s attention, but its appendage-covered surface also suggests a threatening, even monstrous force. The eerie desk lamp begins to resemble a jellyfish or an octopus ready to neutralize its prey; perhaps the lamp would better be left alone. Adamerovich’s sly reference to “romance” in the title suggests intrinsic desire and attraction, even as the scene depicted evokes repulsion. In exploring these tensions, Adamerovich suggests that perhaps there is something coercive about this interspecies relationship.

Alicia Adamerovich. Hiss and Purr, 2019; graphite on paper; 10 ½ x 12 ½ inches. Courtesy of the Artist and FISK.

The onomatopoetic Hiss and Purr (2019) depicts two isomorphic forms. One is tubular, like the titular Disney creature Flubber (1997), rendered with hard-edges and white space. The other, rendered with ink-black crosshatching, looms in the background, and is jagged, like a Batman-style throwing star. Viewed together, these forms capture the duplicitous nature of cats without depicting one: our feline friends purr contentedly one moment, then ferociously spurn our attention the next. Providing amusement through fine art is a rare and wonderful talent indeed, and the moment you understand and share in Adamerovich’s sense of humor is a deeply pleasurable experience.

Vanity (2019) is perhaps the most personally evocative work in the show. It depicts a dresser-top vanity mirror, with reflections of the same mirror frame inside it, retreating, in mise en abyme fashion, towards a black infinity. The image is rendered in thick, anxious crosshatching, suggesting that taking in (or agonizing over) one’s reflection is an intoxicating and chaotic experience. By imparting a new visual language with which to analyze the objects and forces that make up our world, Vibrant Matter encroaches on our individually established perceptions of reality, reminding us that our sense of the “real” is both relative and pliable.

Alicia Adamerovich: Vibrant Matter was on view at FISK in Portland, OR through November 10, 2019.

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