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Epic: Southern Exposure's 14th Annual Juried Exhibition

Emerging artists: North of King City to South of the Oregon border

Southern Exposure's 14th Annual Juried Exhibition Epic hardly seems epic when you enter the gallery's cavernous first floor. Out of 633 submissions only twenty-six artists were selected for this year's show, each represented by one piece of art all well below the 6 x 6 x 8 ft dimension limit. The exhibit hardly seems any good at first glance either however, though there are certainly some duds in this show, there are some good lookin' pieces of art by promising emerging artists waiting to be called up out of the ranks.

The theme "epic" was chosen by the gallery to "explore narrative-based work, suggesting a structure that strays far beyond reality and spans an entire life-time or even multiple life-times." From the artwork in the show it is clear that juror Magali Arriola used a much broader definition of the word to curate this show. Though it is a lovely piece it is hard to find the narrative thread in Jill Sylvia's ledger papers, whose boxes she removes with a razor blade leaving an open, fragile grid. It is instead the creation of the work that makes it epic, the removal of thousands of little boxes so time consuming and labor intensive. Another labor of love is Steven Elliott's Treasure Island. Elliott burnished the map from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel onto a grid of wood squares, painted the water bright turquoise, and painstakingly filled the area of the island with several hundred fake pearls and gemstones. It is a decorative, ravishing piece of work and I'm sure more than one gallery patron will be disappointed that it is not for sale.

Two works epic both in scope and narrative are Newspeak Library: Orwell Records by Shawn Smith and The Genesis of the Coming Race of Human Computers by Frederick Loomis. Newspeak Library is a group of twelve bound books that are the complete works of George Orwell translated into newspeak, the official language of the totalitarian state of Oceania in Orwell's novel 1984. Some may not see the value in translating Orwell's work into an indecipherable language of the author's own creation but I for one see the beauty of Smith's gesture. The Genesis of the Coming Race of Human Computers is one page from a collection of seven prophetic books Loomis intends to complete through the visionary artist persona he has created, Edward Matthew Taylor. The delicately rendered drawing of figures on surgery tables with cables coming out of their bodies, robots by their bedsides, and text detailing enigmatically the rise of the human computer race, leaves the viewer wanting for more.

Works with a political theme crop up more than once in the show. 1,000 Words for Bush by Liz Rossoff parodies the current iPod advertising campaign replacing the black silhouettes of hip, young people rockin out on their iPods with the recently re-elected president and titles such as iCrook, iMoron, and iBastard. A grid of these posters is wheat pasted on plywood to simulate the posters' natural habitat, the temporary plywood walls at construction sites the artist plasters at night. On the street these posters have efficacy, what one thinks is an advertisement is on closer inspection a guerilla artwork. In the gallery setting where there is no competition for the viewer's attention the posters just seem like obvious anti-Bush rhetoric, a pre- November 2nd artifact of the now endangered political left. Mark Rodriguez's graphite drawings of lawn signs and banners on the other hand capitalize on subtle gestures. It is a pleasure to linger on these small pieces and wonder how a group of lawn signs piled on top of one another can take on an almost tragic significance.

Runs: November 12th - December 16, 2004