Eyes wide open

Consolidated Works' new exhibit will keep you awake.

FORAYS INTO THE REALM of fantasy, illicit pleasures, or dark psychological visions, dreams are at once hauntingly personal and inexplicably universal. Consolidated Works' new exhibition, DREAM, curated with a healthy dose of wit by Meg Shiffler, is a visually and conceptually engaging assortment of contemporary artwork that portrays dreamscapes through skewed versions of reality. Along with DREAM, ConWorks' fall Consolidation Series features an impressive lineup of visual art, film, theater, music, and lectures that address Imagined Landscapes.

Imagined Landscapes: DREAM

Consolidated Works November 3-December 17

Shiffler presents four dream types: "Fantastical environments," "Inner peace through ritual," "The American dream," and "The dream of escaping to distant places." Her selections fit loosely into these categories; most pieces straddle two or more. Running the gamut from the serious to the absurd, these imagined landscapes—dreams or meditations, nightmares or dystopian visions—represent a broad cross-section of contemporary art production rarely seen in these parts.

Peter Drake's oil paintings fall on the more playful end of the spectrum. His subjects, middle-aged, flabby inhabitants of American suburbia, participate in good, clean sporting activities. The twist is that they're naked, which casts the quintessential American dream or catalog pictorial—an afternoon of tennis or slingshots in the backyard—in a surreal, humorous light. Malia Jensen's "Beaver Story" is an absurdly oversized beaver made of plywood. Standing nine feet tall, the ultimate anti-phallus, this gigantic creature stands unabashedly as the mythically proportioned beast of an imaginary kingdom.

A stunning work by New York- and Tokyo-based video artist Mariko Mori, Kumano, crowns the exhibition. This 12-minute whirlwind of sensory experience combines glamorized images of Japanese ritual, computer-generated architecture, and a pop-culture vocabulary into a cinematically suspenseful work. At first lulling in its insistent repetition, a final twist in the last few minutes creates a dynamic, almost transcendent, viewing experience.

ON THE DARKER side, James Barsness' mixed media works in collage and oil recall the chaotic, orgiastic scenes of Hieronymus Bosch, landscapes claustrophobically overpopulated by cartoonish figures involved in ghastly acts of violence or perversity. Vietnamese-American photographer Dinh Q L꠭elds two photographs, cleverly juxtaposing images that clearly do not belong together, by cutting them into strips and weaving them like the grass mats he watched his aunts make as a child. He combines Tom Cruise from his role in Born On the Fourth of July with photojournalistic images of children during the Vietnam War, allowing the ghosts of one image to float within the other.

Henry Darger (1909-1973), an artist utterly unknown during his lifetime, wrote a 15,000-page, 12-volume epic chronicling the wars between nations on an unnamed planet peopled with little girls. He produced hundreds of large-scale watercolor paintings to illustrate his saga. Shiffler includes one of these enormous, double-sided scrolls—which fit seamlessly into the rubric of Imagined Landscapes— for Darger's imagined world, though entirely fabricated, is also the artist's personal domain.

Consolidated Works hosts a Gala Opening of this show, Friday, November 3; Members Preview 6-8pm; public opening 8-12pm. $5.

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