Bean Gilsdorf and Dan Gilsdorf at Angels Gate

by Garrison Frost

Usually, reviewers like to write up art shows soon after the opening to give readers more time to visit the exhibitions. Well, I didn’t get to the latest show featuring Bean Gilsdorf and Dan Gilsdorf until this past weekend. So here’s my take on the show, if a little late in the game.

Bean describes her work as “a test of the limits of what is traditionally a humble, domestic medium.” And she’s certainly doing that, printing stark images onto quilts. The result is interesting. The highlight of her show at Angels Gate is “Ghost,” a giant 36-foot-long quilt printed with varying views of a Plymouth Valiant. I also liked the more modestly-sized “Spector,” depicting a man with a gun. Still, the piece that goes furthest into her aesthetic is one depicting a wheelchair (the name escapes me now). The reason this piece is ultimately her strongest is because the actual sewing in the quilt matches the lines of the printed wheelchair. One of the reasons Bean uses the printing is to juxtapose different techniques in this medium, but the risk with this approach is that the finished piece will just look like one thing stuck to another. In the wheelchair piece, the image seems more integrated with the fabric and thus the viewer is forced to think about the two concepts as a single message.

I’ve always loved kinetic sculpture, so I’m a sucker for Dan’s pieces. At Angels Gate, the two that stand out are the ones that cast shadows on the wall. While it’s hard to take one’s eyes off the gizmo aspects of “untitled (power lines),” the effect of seeing the shadows on the wall of the power poles passing one after the other, evoking blurred memories of travel, are fantastic. “Behemoth,” another small mechanism casting shadows – this time of a blurry oil farm – is equally compelling. The images from both are haunting.

Not all of Dan’s pieces are this strong. “Centurion,” showing a wire brush slowly eating away at the eye sockets of a plaster face, is interesting, but comes off as an obvious metaphor. Stronger is “Chuck and Harriet Hum Their Way Across America.” No shadows with this one, but a very high gizmo factor. Standing in front of it, I couldn’t figure out what it did, but then all the little hammers started pounding an odd tune on the metal sign and I got it. Got what? Hell if I know, but it was something good.

Work by Bean Gilsdorf and Dan Gilsdorf will be at Angels Gate through Feb. 4.

(Jan. 18, 2007)

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