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BERKELEY, California — Keeping Time is a large group exhibition at Kala Gallery documenting and exploring creative ways of expressing or marking time from the obvious to the poetic. Although the science of keeping time has fascinated many for centuries, the intensely subjective nature of experiential time was felt in this rather chaotic exhibition.
The most methodical and scientific piece in the show was Kirkman Amyx‘s, “Looking East, Looking West” (2010), which portrayed the timeframe of a year in a way I have never imagined. The mesmerizing diptych is the result of programming two cameras, one facing west and the other east, to photograph the sky once every 15 minutes, for the duration of a year. The resulting panels each depict 35,040 photographs of the changing seasons and the changes in day length. Seeing an entire year from two different angles has never made my understanding of the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons more palpable. It was a very moving piece.
A more subjective piece, but equally methodical is Carol Selter‘s series of photographs, “72 Weeks” (2012), which documents her weekly laundry cycle as seen through the constantly changing parade of hand towels on her stove. Most viewers can identify with a feeling of endless housekeeping; maintaining a home is a never ending chore that begins as soon as it ends. Selter’s work captures this endless cycle of laundry and the changing of towels to convey the passing of time through her homely labor.
Yet, when compared to the commitment and grandiosity of Amyx’s work, Selter’s comes up flat. There is a hard balance between being methodical and yet subjective which Amyx resolves with a unique location and a commitment to empirically collecting the images. We all can relate to the passing of one year, and yet Amyx’s work’s specific location begs the viewer to wonder what the process repeated at their home would look like, what events were going on during these days? Selter’s commitment is longer in duration, yet is too irrelevant to the viewer; sure we can relate to laundry, but what insight do we gain through the artist’s personal chore?
Another work in the show that works nicely with Selter’s is Leslie Hirst‘s, “Apple Stems,” (2006-ongoing) which is comprised of the stems of every apple she has eaten since September 2006. The artist writes that the piece is her way of dealing with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which isn’t surprising when imagining a six year long art project and the 2,047 stems. However, more famous OCD artists like Tom Friedman truly drive home the madness of the disorder to the viewer to an uncomfortably shocking degree, whereas Hirst’s “Apple Stems” fall short. Like Selter, Hirst has captured a lot of time in a new way, but with little reward to the viewer, and little insight into our own concept of time.
Leah Rosenberg‘s acrylic sculpture, “Mille Feuilles,” (2008–ongoing) breaks with any real scientific methodology and embraces the painterly. Over the years, Rosenberg has been adding layers of paint to a warping stack of paint, the intervals and methodology behind her choosing the colors is known only to the artist.
Artists capturing something as scientific and subjectively experienced as the passage of time will undoubtably produce a wide variety of works. Some works dealt with time is such a mundane and obvious way I wondered why they were included at all, where others, like Rosenberg’s, simply took a long time to make, barely enough of a concept for the theme of the show.
One of the most visually interesting pieces were two photographs by Michael Koehle, “Chair Dusting” (2011) and, “Step Ladder Dusting” (2011). Using a fiber optic lamp to play with light, and a long exposure, Koehle made a ghostly photograph that I would love to own.
Although much of the work by Koehle and others was very good, together they pushed my understanding or appreciation of time very little. Attempting to capture both the scientific and subjectively experience nature of time is no easy task, and this show as a whole falls short.
Keeping Time continues at Kala Gallery (2990 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley) until November 22.