Sunday, April 13, 2008

[Sweet Tooth] Generating Space with Robert Moreland

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Generating Space With Robert Moreland
by Alex V. Cook

Seeing an artist on the cusp of doing great things is just as rewarding, maybe more rewarding, than seeing a master at work, and Baton Rouge artist Robert Moreland is on that cusp. Earlier work of his has a quality of cellular regeneration to it, as if one was watching art develop under a microscope, recombinant forms doubling, multiplying, mutating, all the while naked in their materiality.

The work in his recent show at the PlusOne Gallery emerges fully formed; in fact, it made the eclectic layout of the room seem as if it were generated from the art within it. The windows of the room, placed in odd intervals to maximize light without sacrificing wall space, mirror Moreland’s floating rectangles, somewhere between paintings and relief sculptures, protruding inches from the wall. The large, multi-paneled piece simply titled "Construction” central on the mail wall appeared as a complex nucleus to the exhibition, as earthy patterns and textures intertwined in a complex engagement of planes. I’m not sure I’ve been to an exhibition that sat so well in a space that was not specifically designed for it.

Moreland’s two strongest pieces commanded an opposing corner of the room. "Not Even a Wind,” a tight amalgam of squares and rectangles in subtly differing shades of white revealed Moreland’s Apollonian side; it floated off the walls like a manifestation of thinking about art. Its partner "Separate Ways,” offered a more earthbound hands-dirty approach in its soil and wood tones and the inclusion of a metal road sign, reminiscent of Rauschenberg’s intimate combines of the 50s without aping them. These two pieces do what great art does—transcend its material form to reflect not only the world that created it, but also imply the world capable of being created from it.

The rest of the exhibit paled in comparison to the impact of these three pieces. "Lament for Leone 1 and 2,” a pair of large pieces constructed of disconnected yellow, red and checkered rectilinear panels felt unfulfilled compared to its neighbors. "1957” and "Corrine,” two boxlike constructions relying heavily on photographic images stretched over boxy constructions, festooned with flags and spurs and pins seemed like the work of a wholly different artist lacking the sophistication of the one that produced the stronger work. In these, one got the feeling that they would have had greater impact if one knew the back story, but that story was not readily supplied. "Next,” a wall mounted cube covered with a richly textured fabric was better at radiating a shared but unspecified experience, possibly in that it resembled the kinds of latched cases in which 45 rpm singles were filed.

These are minor complaints, mind you. Moreland shows that he is willing to experiment, to push his art in whatever directions it will go, some directions being more successful than others, but that willingness to do so is what makes a show like this so inspiring. Art, when it is successful, is synergistic; it generates cognitive space much larger than the physical space it occupies, and Robert Moreland is someone who I suspect will be generating a lot of synergistic space in the years to come.


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