The Artists "Review" Artists Project was launched on June 30, 2008. Below is a "review" of James Bills' work, Kaleidoscope Cylinder, written by Ryan Burkhart. James also provided a second image, 1d100 (Precious Metals), as well as a brief response to Ryan's "review."
James currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, and Ryan lives in Charlotte, NC.
If you would like to participate in this project, please email me at jtkirkland [at] gmail [dot] com.
At first, Kaleidoscope Cylinder seems to adopt the mechanical conventions of drafting more than it does the facture of traditional drawing. Initially, the image presents the viewer with a horizontally stacked series of segmented cross sections, centered on the page, which change in color from cool to warm as eye moves from the outer edges of the graph toward the center, radiating line. There is a subdued playfulness at work here, which aims to balance the work between implied form and some sort of graph. That playfulness is compelling too, forcing the viewer back and forth between two possibilities: Am I looking at an object rendered transparent or at some sort of diagram of a process yet to be named?
I opened the file and zoomed in as far as I could to examine the texture of the work as closely possible, a technique I would most certainly employ with my eyes if I could see the real thing. Even in the digital file, the contrast between colored pencil and the surface quality of silver leaf is apparent and inviting. I feel confident in saying that by contrasting the drafting approach with the hand applied silver leaf, the artist is asking us to look deeper into the work, but as to what I am searching for I cannot say.
The piece has placed me in an arena of process art, drafting, and materials but is there more? At this point, it seems appropriate to look toward the title for a clue. Kaleidoscopes are wonderful toys, designed for visual pleasure and surprise, but this piece has no reference to the symmetrical Rorschach designs the object creates. In fact, the drawing seems to have no concern with the type of visual movement or frivolity the actual kaleidoscope provides.
It’s that damn silver appliqué…I know there must be something deeper here.
Perhaps the artist is making an allusion to Hyperbolic Geometry, a concept that grafts Euclidian geometry to curved space and allows parallel lines to intersect. Is this another case of artist using math as a launch pad for creativity? Is it headed towards more esoteric territory? Is it pseudo drafting plus alchemy?
There’s a pleasurable frustration at work here -Perhaps Art History might lend a hand. I see a possible affinity to the works of Duchamp and Picabia, who had a knack for blending machines, alchemy, and sexuality with graphic approaches, but I would need to see much more work to even begin to understand what is informing and guiding this particular piece and if those precedents have anything whatsoever to do with this artist’s concerns.
I am left wondering where this drawing leads the artist next– is it a source for sculptural objects or even Rube Goldberg like contraptions that have fun with math, alchemy, materials, function, and form? For me, it’s all of these projections and possibilities that make Kaleidoscope Cylinder as successful as it can be in the Artist Review format … my curiosity has been sincerely stirred.
By James Bills
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