SAVANNAH, Georgia — Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe‘s installations are undeniably beautiful — composed of diaphanous arrays of colored thread in rainbow gradations, the artist’s pieces inspire a kind of instant hypnotic daze, as we have described on Hyperallergic previously. As the individual threads move against each other, the taught, three-dimensional compositions come alive. They create dynamic visual illusions that play with the formal qualities of color and space, but the works also hold a more socially engaged artistic angle.
In the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Gutstein Gallery, Dawe has occupied two slanting sections of gallery space. One is filled with a splash of warm, pink, magenta, and orange thread in a smooth gradient, and the other is cooler, emphasizing green and blue hues. Walking past the thread sculptures, it’s just possible to see what makes them tick, by straining the eye: The illusion of animation comes from the comparatively faster movement of a closer section of string in the work than a farther one for the viewer, leading to a destabilizing case of visual paralllax.
When I visited the storefront space, visitors strolled among the installations, wandering at will to where they thought the two disparate pieces might be perfectly composed. As visually pleasing as Dawe’s work is, it also has a more critical, conceptual side. His compositions obliquely reference conflicts of race and society. This political nature finds resonance with Savannah’s own past. A renovated restaurant, SCAD’s Gutstein Gallery space was the site of luncheon counter sit-ins during the early civil rights movement. The two sections of color might be separate, but, according to the artist, together they make up the full color spectrum as a united whole. The combination is greater than the sum of its parts.
The lesson of Gabriel Dawe’s “Light Paradox” at SCAD is that perspective is what matters most. It’s true aesthetically as well as politically and personally. As the artist says of humanity in the exhibition’s explanatory text, “despite our differences we are still part of the whole.”
Gabriel Dawe: Light Paradox runs at SCAD’s Gutstein Gallery (201 East Broughton Street, Savannah) through April 11.