The Austin Chronicle Reviews REBRIS

"Rebris" at Northern-Southern

Reduce, reuse, recycle is seldom so remarkable as in these works by Virginia Fleck and Ted Carey

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 26, 2019


One of the more memorable works on view during last year's East Austin Studio Tour was Virginia Fleck's Cascade: collective thirst, a frozen waterfall – a frozen metalfall, really – made of approximately 85,000 discarded pull-tabs from aluminum cans, plummeting from the high rafters in a warehouse on East Fifth: part of the tour's "Femme Abstract" show.

"And what," a person might wonder, recalling the way Cascade amazed the senses, "has that ever-busy Fleck been up to since then?"

You can slake any such curiosity by paying a visit to Northern-Southern sometime in the next two weeks. There, in the farther room of Phillip Niemeyer's intimate artspace on East 12th, you'll find Fleck's part of the current "Rebris" show, a two-person exhibition of sculpture made from the now-upcycled refuse of human existence.

Where Cascade comprised meters-tall lengths of multipartite ingenuity, Fleck's newer pieces are not as monumental but hardly less worthy of contemplation. Here, the artist has continued with her pull-tab obsession to create five major wall hangings, again using safety pins to join tab after tab after tab in mind-boggling profusion, rendering what could be mistaken for the excised fur of woolly robot mammoths or large swaths of pelt from a Cordwainer Smith manshonyagger. She's joined her endless tabs into chain after chain, layered those tab-chains atop each other for visually impenetrable depth, used them to create specific shapes that might include a border-defining lacuna as part of the textured scape: heraldic devices for whatever posthuman age we're rapidly approaching.

Also: colors. There are streaks of strong hue shot through some of these new sculptures of Fleck's, where she's incorporated tabs that reflect more than the usual silver: yellows, reds, greens, sparking out from each mass in subtle spectral enhancement. "Look at that," said curator Niemeyer, pointing out a scattered two-tone infusion, gules and or in a faint bend, sinister against the argent field. "It's like now she's painting with the tabs," he said. "It's a beautiful thing."

This exhibition is a small collection of beautiful things. Its first part, in the entrance room, is a group of object juxtapositions by Ted Carey, serving as a sort of cerebral amuse-bouche for the aesthetic buffet. Like how amuse-bouche literally means "to amuse the mouth"? These five small works of Carey's are an amuse-brain that will tickle the hell out of your frontal lobes. Delightful and downright wacky, their power amplified by the these-are-works-in-a-gallery context, they're a light bite before the industry-heavy tabstractions of Fleck that wait just one wall away.


Northern-Southern, 1900-B E. 12th
Through May 8