Bonnie Gabel visits a performance and exhibition at The Front that asks us to take a second look at our surroundings.
Jessie Vogel and Nat & Veronica
4100 St. Claude Avenue
March 12 - April 3, 2016
“Clouds/Cows”—a collaborative performance-turned-exhibition by artist Jessie Vogel and performance duo Nat & Veronica—is a meditation on the mundane, an exploration of everyday sights transformed into something fantastical.
At last Saturday’s opening at The Front, three women wearing six baggy sweaters (one for each set of arms and legs) stared in soft focus through a round plywood frame. They flicked their arms and emitted deep grumbling mmm sounds before lying on sod. When a gallerygoer dropped a bottle, they responded—flicking their arms and letting their eyes, then their heads, then their whole bodies wander toward the object. Their tongues darted out of their mouths exploring their cheeks, trailing half-munched carrots. Nat & Veronica’s Cows performance is at once comical and disturbing. The three performers embody so completely this archetypical American farm animal, provoking laughter and drawing unsettling connections between women and these animals who provide milk and meat. The piece commands us to stop, watch, and wait.
In another room, Jessie Vogel’s sculptures—the titular Clouds—beckon us to bask in nature’s delicate beauty, standing in contrast to the grotesque comedy of the performance. Visions of the natural world are dissected and reconstructed in multiple sizes, textures, and mediums—plaster, cotton, board, and collagraph prints. An accompanying ethereal soundscape allows our perceptions of time to bend and shift as we traverse Vogel’s sculptures, both whimsical and scientific. One cloud is multiplied infinitely in a mirrored display case; another cloud is structured, almost like a mattress, held inside a wooden frame and leaning off the wall towards the viewer.
The Clouds and Cows, though different in tone, share a central message, asking us to look closely at a world we are constantly speeding through, to uncover something new and unexpected. The Cows will be away from the gallery for most of the exhibition, but you can catch them at impromptu performances and on the show’s closing day, April 3, 12 - 3 pm.