Eruptions Galore

Artist complements her sculptures with drawings of sneezes, bomb blasts and geysers

“Drawn to the Sublime,” Heide Fasnacht’s current exhibition of drawings and sculpture at Kent Gallery intelligently complements the work that has made contemporary drawing art’s most fertile territory. The exhibition presents work made since 1996, shedding well-deserved light on Fasnacht’s complex and original vision.

Here we find emissions of every sort—from a sneeze and a bomb to a geyser and a champagne bottle. A photographic apprehension of particulate matter, motion and perception are at the core of the work, but Fasnacht avoids sterile observations. The principles of physics may be similar, but the artist makes clear in each redrawn image that the subjective experience is quite different. Crafted with great finesse and physicality, Fasnacht shifts and layers meaning in and among the drawings and sculpture.

In the series “Rapid Eye Movement (after Seurat) I – V” (1996-97), Fasnacht redraws the documentation of perceptual experiments in rough and moody graphite, questioning the veracity of scientific information. Test subjects’ focal points are charted across each sheet. Rendered as holes punched through the paper, Fasnacht equates a cool mechanical punch with the searing potential of the human gaze. What might have been left merely as a conceptual rendering of fictitious data has instead nimbly been leveraged into another zone of meaning.

In “Test” (1997), the punched paper holes define a detonated bomb’s trajectory. Fasnacht links the holes with Benday dots and the particulate by-product of destruction. In one move, she alludes to a multitude of meanings, from the presence of absence to the spectacular desolation of printed media.

The exhibit’s most haunting image is the lightly colored “Three Buildings,” made in the winter of 2000-2001. The building of greatest concern is the center high-rise. Subjected to demolition, it tilts towards the ground, crumbling and rumbling with billows of dust and debris. A tiny bed is launched from the top floor.

Post-September 11, Fasnacht’s works are either disturbing or amazingly prescient. What marks the authenticity of this artist’s path, who lives and works just blocks from ground zero, is the direction the work takes after the fall of the towers.

A number of recent aqua resin sculptures dryly depict the wreckage of celebration—broken champagne bottles, tipped or smashed glasses, often pouring out wormy dribbles. Fasnacht wills away destruction’s effects by shifting her subject matter and achieving a poignant conclusion in symbolic terms. She keeps a clear eye on the emotional landscape, but without the predictable animation of liquids. It is an unusual condition in the conservation of matter, to directly convert a solid into a gas, bypassing the liquid state.

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