Kiff Slemmons‘ neckpiece Circumspect (2003) is an object that does what it is and is what it does. Composed of lenses and mirrors collected and categorized for a purpose that the collecting itself reveals, it is both a tool of taxonomic assessment and a record of a taxonomic class of useful and evocative things.
Denying the role of jewelry as something only to be looked at, it meets and counters the gaze — returning agency to those being seen. It also asks us to emulate what it facilitates: the art of careful looking as a way of understanding.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.
Albert Einstein with Euclid’s Elements Diptych (All Photos By Gail)
You can say this much about art exhibits comprised of Portraits of Pop Culture Icons: EVERYBODY DOES IT. Seriously, Ev-Ree-Bah-Dee. What keeps an exhibit of Pop Culture Portraiture from being a total yawnfest is the defining twist that the artist puts on his or her work (see Erik den Breejen’sThere’s a Riot Goin’ On at Freight and Volume for an excellent example of what I’m talking about).
So, it’s a huge relief that David Datuna’s Elements – the artist’s eighth solo show at Birnam Wood Galleries – is a portrait-based exhibit with one of the coolest visual spins I’ve ever seen. Although from a distance it appears that each image is mounted behind a layer of marbled glass, on close inspection you can see that Datuna has employed a unique conceptual device of layered optical lenses to focus and diffuse his distinct visual imagery. Talk about Ways of Seeing!
Detail from Above Portrait
According to the exhibit’s press release, the title Elements is taken from the centerpiece of the show, a diptych that pairs Albert Einstein with Euclid’s Elements, the seminal work of mathematics written in the third century BC. Described as the second most widely published book after the Bible, the book’s findings underpin much of logic and modern science. Its influence is immense. Einstein said it kindled his interest in science. Abraham Lincoln insisted it was the most influential book of his life.
I love the little details Datuna adds, such as printing amd framing Andy Warhol in bright yellow, a color that Warhol used often in his own signature silkscreen portraits of celebrities.
David Datuna’s Elements is definitely worth adding to your next Art Crawl. Just make sure you schedule it before June 7th.