Shotgun Review Archive

Propagation

By September 5, 2007 Mitra Fabian slices paper window blinds, repurposing them into organic islands for her current show, Propagation, at San Jose's Institute of Contemporary Art. Concrete becomes water, as these islands spread across the gallery floor. Among other works, the Ventilation Series forms a rich tension between hand-made repetitive structures with manufactured functional items. Mitra's art is in the altering of the meaning of propagation--imbuing paper, scotch tape, and glue with fertility. Her work comments on the proliferation of found or machined materials with a prescribed function. She disregards their utility, but maintains the notion of mass production in reassembling them into frenzied compilations. The dense multiplicity in Ventilation as well as in Cluster, (obsessively arranged binder reinforcements) gives the sense that these manufactured items could reproduce or replicate on their own. Cluster, for me, conveys the propagation concept best in its uneven areas of intensity. As if certain areas inside the corner of the wall were better suited to breeding or depositing of eggs. Hole or binder reinforcements gather in fluffy batches climbing the angle of one corner of the gallery. The use of the quarter inch binder paper circles in such a large-scale piece gives the viewer a chance to experience Cluster from a distance as well as intimately. Individually, they are three reinforcements triangulated into a bent neutron-like shape. White, cold, smooth binder circles huddling together as if a wasp or other insect wove them together and tended them in some unseen way. Multiplicity, hollow glue balls stacked in a corner, feels like a remnant of replication, a collection of gooey afterbirth membranes hardened into lovely rounded vessels. They are egg-like and yet are a skin more than a shell, open at one end. This piece, like much of Propagation requires closer inspection. Ms. Fabian chooses a very intimate scale with her work, the viewer is enticed to experience each piece as a child might: imagining a world within a very small structure. Plot gives us candy-colored glow spots inside pale scotch taped forms grouped in a corner of the gallery. This piece diverges somewhat from the paler colors of Ventilate I-III, Cluster and Multiplicity, but uses manufactured materials in much the same way. The small flower-like wall growths can be seen as pretty blooms or happy spores beginning their invasion. Like colors emanate from the tape forms, they are likewise infected internally by the bright flowers. Scotch tape built bulbs gather and spread in a similar fashion to the netted wall dimensions of the piece. Stacked yellow plastic cones branch out in pointy agave or ocotillo growths from the floor interspersed with the scotch tape elements. The yellowy-green tapered fingers of these plant forms reach over three feet in height and are made of three-inch sections. Many small elements make larger forms here, and again point out to the propagation theme of the show. Mitra's work evokes a quietly determined spirit at work to humanize and personalize the manufactured, the mass produced, the humble material. In making these forms, she mechanizes the process somewhat, evenly cut pieces of tape, cleanly consistent measured heights and repeated forms. In her making the manufactured organic, she is as well mechanizing a process of formation. She works to cut, mutilate or build the machined objects into organic forms, as well as taking basic construction materials and forming organic shapes. There is a hive-like quality to much of the work in the Propagation series, busy hands generate a quiet, intense and flourishing world of small objects. Propagation will be on view through September 29th. More information can be had by visiting the San Jose ICA web site. More images of Mitra Fabian's work can be viewed at her web site.

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