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BUFFALO — There are good art exhibitions and then there is writing about them. In the case of Eric Mack’s solo show at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, I recommend you walk in without reading any of the text, because it doesn’t really help all that much and might burden you with interpretations that I think aren’t always proven — for instance, I don’t think “Mack’s works always smuggle the body into the exhibition space.”
This one-room exhibition has some seriously smart work by an artist who easily experiments with mixing forms and materials. He’s able to create those moments that demonstrate he’s headed in new and unchartered directions, even if a little more focus would’ve helped this one-room show polish the power of its punch.
There’s a curious tension between the more exciting and precarious work, like “Wind painting” (2016), and the more conventional work that looks like it might be tailored for the less adventurous collector set, like “People say…” (2017) — though it’s not always easy to figure out where one work starts and another ends. While the former is more visually exciting and conceptually rich, placing textiles in free-flowing forms and referencing everything from protest camp sites to laundry lines, the latter feels more directly in dialogue with the conventional parameters of art history and abstract painting, which isn’t the artist’s sweet spot.
“Willow within the Form of Prose” (2016) is the strongest work in the show. An assembly of parts, the resulting sculpture distills the best of Mack’s abilities to make something look simultaneously digital and analog, while engaging with the poetry of the material and the limitations of representation. There’s a breakdown in narrative, even when the titles suggest a subtext, and it contributes to the freeing energy that conjures up these fantastical installations, making me feel like the artistic process itself released a genie from a bottle.
The title of the show, Vogue Fabrics, is an intentional play off the name of a prominent fabric company, fashion magazine, dance, and London club, which are all of the same name. This highlights the fact that Mack’s best work walks the line between many worlds. His fluency in these languages suggests a type of visual “code switching,” but there’s no discomfort or adaptation at play as the artist is fully at home in this intersection between worlds that pokes at your expectations. It’s in that liminal space that his best work soars.
Eric Mack: Vogue Fabrics continues at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY) until June 18.
Editor’s Note: Names of three works were changed in the original review to reflect the accurate titles.