Last year’s two-person exhibit of James Clark and Joan Waltemath at Sideshow was a stunning success. Clark’s weirdly grouped blacklit balloon sculptures made Waltemath’s dense graphite lines and geometric forms on a long vellum scroll eerily smolder and glow. Clark’s and Waltemath’s very different sensibilities created a kind of harmonious dialectic, as though it was a collaborative installation rather than an exhibit of distinct works.
One would have liked to respond, of course, in a completely different manner to the pairing of Jonas Mekas and Rosa Valado.
Those of us familiar with Mekas’s legendary cinematic oeuvre will find it a great treat to see fragments from his films—the edges of the celluloid frames visible—in printed form. But set in relation to the simultaneously robust and elegant steel, aluminum, and copper thread sculpture by Rosa Valado, which undulates through the middle of Sideshow Gallery, I must confess that I did not find this particular contraposition all that accommodating. It is almost like two strangers in the same room who are both reluctant to engage in a dialogue with each other. The paired dynamic lacks both visual or conceptual coherence.
Mekas’s successive and haunted images are beautiful and poetic. The emotional impact of the images rests on their almost Proustian evocation of uninterrupted temporality and the resonance of spaces in depicting fleeting moments, a personal sensation and recollected experience. It is a dream-like repetition belonging to the interior world of poetry. Valado’s sculpture, on the other hand, is a singular object which is grounded in a fundamentally spatial construction. Regardless of her deconstructive bent and the astute awareness of the vertical and horizontal movement related to three-dimensional form, her work is essentially architectural. In this instance, her formally rigorous yet playful sensibility does not complement Mekas’s intimate and poetic vocabulary.
Although the exhibit does not form an integral whole, I came away admiring the work of both artists. Jonas Mekas’s work will always remain a true conduit to his private mental domain, while Valado strives for a more physical and public accessibility. One longs to be in a perpetual interior space; the other seeks to be outdoors.
TOMASSIO LONGHI is a contributor to the Rail.