"Mouthing (The Sentient Limb)"
The Hyde Park Art Center exhibits works by Amy Sillman, Steve Reinke and other artists.
Curated by local artist Kelly Kaczynski, “Mouthing…” brings together 14 artists who engage the body, literally or conceptually. Picnic does the former, compressing graphic explorations of food, sex, birth and death among human beings and other animals into a mere four minutes. In one of its most nerve-racking scenes, a pair of legs dangles in midair for what feels like forever. It turns out we’re not watching an execution or suicide, but the episode still gets one’s adrenaline pumping.
Despite its vagueness, the exhibition’s theme strains to accommodate some of the works on view, such as Reinke’s cartoonish drawings and Yun Jeong Hong’s Anti-Oedipus (2010), an abstract sculpture made out of pieces of wood and books. But most of these paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and installations recall the phantom limbs that Kaczynski refers to in her exhibition statement—simultaneously familiar and odd. In Chris Naka’s video I Can’t Feel My Face (2011), an unseen person’s fingers move over family snapshots, pulling the subjects’ faces closer until they dissolve into pixels. Anyone using a smartphone could do the same, but Naka still makes the interface between the human body and technology seem miraculous.
The show’s sculptures are best at prompting us to consider our bodies’ relationships to space, scale and materials. The most memorable is Cameron Crawford’s in/blind/stand/ (2009). In a room built within the gallery, an electrical cord snakes under a painted aluminum structure resembling a radiator. A sign warns visitors not to touch the art—typical, except that Crawford claims his piece maintains a surface temperature of 200 degrees. I kept it at arm’s length.