LAU AND LEDBETTER AT KNIZNICK
by James Foritano
Waltham, Mass. – As a critic, I have no trouble recom- mending the exhibit currently at the Kniznick Gallery in Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center. The art, craft and vision, as well as the curatorial presentation, are all top-notch.
It’s only on the personal level, which is a big “only,” that I can’t guarantee the integrity of either the pitch, the come-on or the content which, though all perfectly innocent-looking, are only partially so — on purpose, I suspect.
Take Heidi Lau’s ceramic sculptures. They pitch themselves as objects we can walk around, take in and, most impor- tantly, assign a place vis-à-vis ourselves – as in “here” and “there.” But try as I might, I could never resist the feeling that I’d missed something a closer look would have revealed — and by leaning in, I’d lose my objectivity.
Blame this seductive push/pull on Lau’s feeling for organic construction. As in those creatures that grow along the tide-lines of our continent and haven’t yet decided to be sh or fowl, so do her columnar gures — both fragile and strong, fuzzy and slick, open and closed — seem not indecisive but still breeding momentous questions.
Our questions seem importunate, even premature in the face of such bubbling, buzzing founts of potentiality. And it wasn’t easy for me to say that, even to myself, because I’m used to asking questions and getting answers.
I lost my composure just as I passed a particularly portentous column about the breadth of a giant’s thigh and, noticing that it was hollow, leaned in and whispered “Umbrella stand?” as though I were just thinking aloud.
Of course I didn’t get any satisfaction from a composure eons older than mine but, for my trouble, I did get sassed by an eyeball, opening amid a brew of organic shapes and staring right at me. It was elegant, witty, endlessly allusive, and maybe just sour grapes from a guy who got no unambiguous answers, even though answers seemed as close as touch, deeply duplicitous.
Just to get away, I wandered over to the one piece of text in the exhibition and, sure enough, I had the conspiracy theory to