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The Oblivion Atlas and  Women, Art & Social Change

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A new book, The Oblivion Atlas, features seven short stories by Michael Allen Zell illustrated with photographs by the artist duo, Louviere + Vanessa. Although tightly interwoven with Zell's text, the photographs easily stand on their own and, like the stories, segue through various private and public spaces around town where the ordinary and the fantastical routinely trade places. A photo of a very large German shepherd (pictured) is from a story about a band of ambulatory literary nihilists called the League of Odd Volumes. Led by their dog, Garamond, they wander the streets savoring the intriguing vibrations of places that they proceed to rename after their favorite literary figures, discreetly inscribed in blood on wooden markers. It sounds bizarre, but the book and the exhibition at A Gallery for Fine Photography create their own complex reality based on dreams and memories interwoven with the everyday world in an audacious undertaking that becomes eerily convincing in the hands of these artists.

  Although often edgy, Louviere + Vanessa's images are far more labor-intensive than most traditional photographs, resulting in work comprising materials like gold leaf, handmade papers and even blood. This emphasis on craftsmanship suggests an unexpected parallel with the spectacular vintage Newcomb pottery and jewelry expo at the Newcomb Gallery. Now considered staid, Newcomb pottery originally was an outgrowth of 19th-century feminism and was considered radical at the time. It also was influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, a hippie-like group of utopian, nature-loving artists who created handmade objects as the antidote to industrial manufacturing techniques they despised. Despite its radical provenance, Newcomb pottery was embraced by affluent collectors all over America and retains its appeal today (a single pot sold for more than $24,000 at a New Jersey auction in 2010). Newcomb's idealistic founders would have been shocked. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT

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