Friday, April 15, 2016

"How the Ghost of You Clings" Kym O'Donnell solo show at Silver Meteor Gallery.

The gallery walls are flat black, the lighting subdued to the point that it takes my eyes several minutes to adjust. There are several shelves on the walls around the room, about 3 ft long by 1 deep. On each is an assemblage of photographs, purses and other antique objects. They look historical/period correct at first, but the artist, using period correct processes, has made the photographs. They were taken in Museums in Wisconsin and Paris. The portraits are mostly directorial mode portraits, done in studio. Lots of artists use film these days, but Kym is using it very purposefully, developing and printing using primitive processes to get the aesthetics she wants.

At first glance, the images look as historical as the frames (and not all of these are old), but the artist is more focused on the pseudo-historical, a fictional past, constructed and lived out in the present.
Kym mentions the weirdness of Wisconsin, the dark side stuff in Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, a 1973 book about Florida-worthy bizarre crimes that happened there in the 19th Century. There is an inescapably dramatic quality to the work. Kym is an actress. The archaic nature of the process matches the stylistic timeline and adds an aura of authenticity. It's not so much a rejection of (digital) technology as it is an embrace of the right technology for her vision. 
Many of the smallish prints are surreal in nature, of dolls, clowns, the bizarre. There are dried flowers, stylish old purses and things one might find atop a desk or dresser. I love small prints. They are intimately viewed, one-on-one, inhaling the viewer like a piece of red silk through a keyhole. In this sense, they form fractional subsets within each assemblage.

 Every shelf tells a story. The spaces are the same, but the content vary. They invoke cycles, but nostalgia (for a past never lived) and some sentimentality abound. I react very physically to these assemblages for some reason, maybe how they project into space beyond the shelves  The artist, Kym O'Donnell, tells me there's a metanarrative. I don't hunt for it, but bounce around the room and the individual narratives become modular, connecting in new ways. Katherine Gibson arrives and we all talk, Kym ' s gentle greyhound lies down while we talk, head between my feet. I think about how much our conversation, the dog and setting is like an experimental play, which is what normally happens in this space. We walk outside, say good-bye to Katherine, and talk for a bit as the sunset intensifies on the horizon and the day lapses into the past.

This is in some ways a complex, conceptual show. It playfully engages with the viewer's cultural baggage and assumptions. It's a gem of a show, one you should not miss.

                                                                                                                      ---- Luis
From Kym: The closing reception is from7-9p on Sunday April 24th. The gallery doesn't keep regular hours but can open on an appointment basis- best to message me at or call Michael Murphy at 813.300.3585.  The address is 2213 E 6th Avenue, 33605. It is literally right on the train tracks in Ybor.

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