Review: Alyssa Dennis at PARSE

Alyssa Dennis, Amalgamate, 2013. Graphite, colored pencil, and charcoal on paper. Courtesy the artist and PARSE, New Orleans.

Alyssa Dennis
134 Carondelet Street
October 18–December 15, 2013

As hodgepodge as they are refined, Alyssa Dennis’ richly layered architectural drawings combine partial buildings and forms to create dreamlike hybrid spaces. Pencil smudges and erasure marks, and the occasional strip of masking tape or scribbled note, convey how creative processes develop—slowly, laboriously, and provisionally. Tiny black-and-white paper cutouts of men and women in old-timey bowler hats and cotton frocks populate the walls and some drawings, contrasting the modern billboards and homes pictured with solar panels and skylights. Dennis’ mix-and-match play with time and space raises important questions of architectural change: As society evolves, how do our constructed spaces transform?

Translating these ideas off the page, Dennis and PARSE co-director Ricardo Barba have built a life-size inhabitable structure from salvaged wood and glass in the middle of the gallery. Parse, which has recently begun inviting guest curators to organize exhibitions in the space, will use this structure as a curatorial office—a hub for thinking and discussion about the gallery’s new direction.

Like other animals, humans instinctually seek and build shelter. These habitats have taken many forms from modest dwellings that fulfill only basic needs to elaborate estates that far exceed them. At a time when unimaginative housing complexes and gaudy McMansions abound, Dennis offers a refreshing alternative to envisioning the built environment.

Installation view of Alyssa Dennis' "Raw Material" at PARSE, New Orleans.