"Love Letters to Antarctica"
Even crammed into a tiny storefront, Antarctica retains its allure. Annie Heckman and Lorien Jordan’s collaborative show engages the frozen continent’s silence, vastness and melancholy. (Heckman’s poignant animation about penguin suicide—it’s a real phenomenon—isn’t Cute Overload material.) The artists convey the fascination that made turn-of-the-20th-century explorers keep returning there.
Jordan’s colorful drawings depict obscure episodes from those explorers’ journals. In my favorite, They Didn’t Like Bach, bemused penguins surround a Victrola sitting in the snow—a cute outtake from human beings’ grim history in this wasteland. Penguin Pie reflects the desperation that came to characterize most early Antarctic expeditions: Dead penguins lying on a shelf wait to be enfolded in pastry. While Jordan’s subjects fascinate, her figures are clumsily rendered. It’s unclear whether their awkwardness is a strategy to enhance the intimacy of her style or a failure of technique.
Blue and white dominate Heckman’s gouaches, a mix of figurative depictions of ice and water, and more abstract forms. Her sculptural installation (pictured) evokes Antarctica viewed from underwater. Though the artist’s phosphorescent icebergs, realistic sea urchins and other elements create an eerie atmosphere, the piece recalls a stage set. The artists’ statement suggests this lack of polish is deliberate: an acknowledgement that Antarctica, which they’ve never visited, remains a fantasy for both. Despite its homespun vibe, “Love Letters” conjures a sense of the sublime.