click to enlarge jennallen-invasivespecies--41.jpg

Photo by Jenn Allen

'Invasive Species' explores the weird science (and art) of the Sunshine State 

Strange love

Florida is weird, and is made mostly weirder by human activities. This month at the Gallery at Avalon Island, curator Pat Greene exhibits works by nine artists plus his own installation around the topic of human displacement of nature. An artists' talk on Saturday, June 23, will close the exhibit.

As curator, Greene uses Umberto Eco's notion of hyperreality – fake, man-made re-creations of reality – to ask questions about our theme-park-infested, cemented-over, trash-strewn state.

Kira Gondeck-Silvia's "Cast Away, Buried Alive" is visible from the sidewalk and starts by looking inward, with a video capturing buried emotional turmoil. The crystals hanging in the gallery are also in the video, but they glitter more prettily in real life.

This invasion of anxiety into the viewer's consciousness sets up the rest of the show. Stepping inside, one confronts Richard Munster's "Out of the Earth/Into the Sky/Out of the Sky/Into the Ground," a crate opened and menacing, alien ceramic forms escaping. Another type of invasion is in the making.

Kyle, one of Florida's top living contemporary artists, takes over the center of the space with a shattered landscape of life after people. 2018 is the Year of the Bird, he notes in his artist's statement, and colorful warblers roost in corroded machine parts and moss-covered architectural fragments. Furniture draped with camo netting hints at future human existence, a biting commentary on how nature could turn the tables and crowd the man-made to the edges.

Nearby, Hannah Leah's "The Act of Undying Se01 5' 6 ½", 180 lbs" presents shattered glass over a pair of empty ruby-red slippers, the aftermath of a sudden departure through a glass ceiling. Dina Mack contrasts this with a minimalistic but quite eloquent installation she calls "Original Material With More Layering and Production Techniques," a construction linking Webster's beloved dictionary with tented blank white paper, lace, gold leaf, a root and a vine, and a plaster-filled inkwell.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JENN ALLEN
  • Photo by Jenn Allen

Greene himself created "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land," a tiny fort suggestive of an invader's planning studio, with monitor screens, satellite images of cities and camo-draped boxes. Adam J. Thaxton's ink-on-coffee-stained-paper primitive maps capture modern places like Titusville in premodern style, with geometric stick figures dancing, eating or hauling a papoose. "Colony," a ceramic wall sculpture by DeVan Jiminez, is delicately beautiful; its nonhuman architectural emptiness is haunting. And Jenn Allen's photographs soothe down the anxiety flaring in the front of the gallery, with serenely staged dioramas of Florida's awful architecture after climate change takes its full hold upon this part of the planet.

In the gallery's prominent corner window, Lisa and Matt Duke propose "Bad Faith," an arrangement of masonry and vines with trash. We asked them about it. "It is a full acknowledgement of the world we live in," Matt Duke says. "On Florida's beaches, everywhere you look are plastic shards, cigarette butts and other trash." Trash has invaded the oceans, and the sea level rise will soon return it to our doorsteps. The Dukes wove these objects into mobiles and vines and decorated concrete blocks "without judgment," they say.

Florida's love of fake reality is poked great fun at, while the more somber business of postapocalyptic existence – or not – is treated seriously. The exhibit, like many of Greene's projects, loosely weaves a great many ideas and questions together. The work is intriguing and gives viewers a unique contemplation of humanity's weird place in our state's weird nature.

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