Photo: LeiAnn Huddleston.
Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, UNLV
(4505 S Maryland Parkway)
Through November 30, 2016
By D.K. Sole
I hesitate to call Mike Calway-Fagen’s one-person show "poetic" because the word is so often colloquially understood to mean sweetened mush, but the first time I saw it I had been reading William Kulik’s introduction to the "Selected Poems of Max Jacob" (Oberlin College Press, 1999), and I was thinking of the implicit joins or silences that poetry allows for. "Banana Strings" struck me as a way to continue that line of thought. One of my colleagues suggested that it was a show with many entrances, which it is, in that almost any piece can serve as the first piece, an introduction to the story of the rest. Is it a coincidence that the shadow inside "rigormortis tortoise", a black ceramic vase with a pie-slice cut out of the side, falls in the shape of a keyhole?
The artist on opening night (October 27) drew attention to the fact that the trefoil arrangement of singing pony costumes in "the nature of the venture" means you can stand between them, inside the work, but then where is the work, you might think -- where is the front of it, where does it start or stop -- especially when the audio coming out of the speakers bolted into the ponies' dark-fringed cartoon eyeholes travels all over the room, even into the narrow top balcony space where an ominous submarine rotates in a video loop against the wall?
My own mental entrance to "Banana Strings", the moment when I looked back at the gallery and saw the shadow-patterned gap in the vase forming an alignment with the music-filled space between the ponies, was a block of printed text in a collage titled "in full sight". It describes the behaviour of the male saiga antelope, who often dies during rutting season, "leaving most of the food supply to the females, who propagate the species." This notion of absence and fulfillment bubbling away in the same spot with a weird combination of biology and mechanical predictability (as if the saiga is not fully one thing or the other, or as if we are all both at once) looked like the key to some angle of perceptive intelligence that the show presents to its visitors without ever trying to disguise it as an answerable question.
Photo: LeiAnn Huddleston.
D.K. Sole has worked at UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum since it changed its focus to fine art in 2012. An artist and former resident of Melbourne, Australia, she held her first one-woman Las Vegas show, 'Some Time Ago," in 2015 at Clark County's Winchester Gallery. She was co-manager for the highly praised downtown Las Vegas gallery, Satellite Contemporary.
ABOVE: Luis Varela Rico