Spirit away

Feb 6, 2008 at 12:00 am

Initially, the careful, cool yet deeply soulful constructions in Zero/Suspension seem to examine spatial elements such as flatness and dimensionality. But the more you reflect on Jim Shrosbree's wall sculptures and works on paper, the clearer it becomes that the exhibition is a meditation on one particular consideration of space: the nature of movement.

The sculptures, made with wire, glue, paint, vinyl tape, nylon, often painted, allude to vessels moving gracefully back and forth between stasis and flight, like a wing of a plane or the sail of a ship. The sculptures also interact with the environment. Some make wall contact with actual patches of paint and others cast shadows, a reciprocal relationship in which the objects support the environment and also rely on it to sustain them.

The lively, red, white and black piece called "WHL (magia)," includes playing cards. You can almost hear the whirr of a speedily performed magic trick, a roulette wheel or even the wheel of a steamboat. "YR (swingfold)," a stunningly twisted shape — perhaps a piece of fabric used as a sail; perhaps part of a balloon skirt — at once writhes away from the wall and twists into it. The various gradations of yellow painted nylon are stunningly sturdy yet transparent. While YR flies or sails through the air, another piece titled "UB/3078" ("UB" is for ultra blue) looks like a board buried underwater from a sunken ship or a river raft.

"Rojo ('y coco)," a pentagonal patch of red paint on the wall, next to a bulbous structure of yolky yellow orange, brings to mind a throbbing human heart (not a neat, red paper valentine).

A second show in the gallery's kitchen, The Restaurant, consists of ceramic platters, cups, plates and a vase that Shrosbree crafted in Iowa, where he lives, as part of the Peace Project Ceramics. These objects speak of the earth, made with two hands touching it, warping and leaving fingerprints as a signature.

The show's title, Zero/Suspension, refers to a condition of immediacy; no delay. It invites the viewer to postpone habitual patterns of thought like the Ram Dass phrase: Be here now. It also alludes to a condition of not being suspended at all, but of being on the verge of taking off or already in motion. Several factors back up this last possibility. The installation throughout Paul Kotula's entire space — in the hallway, project room, main gallery and kitchen — underscores the sculptures' relation to the space itself and to one another. The height of the pieces mounted on the walls, the distance between them, the fact there is a kitchen, all come together to transform the gallery into a well-equipped capsule, ready to spiral off on an extended air, sea or space journey. It's reminiscent of Jules Verne's exploratory novels, particularly, Around the World in 80 Days, and its hero, Phileas Fogg. In Verne's words, Fogg is a man who "... must have traveled everywhere, at least in the spirit." Verne was interested in the ways foreign travel could effect personal growth. Similarly, Shrosbree suggests that traversing uncharted terrain, be it adventures of the body or mind, rewards our senses and makes our sensibilities more buoyant.

Jim Shrosbree:Zero/Suspension and The Resturant run throughFeb. 23 at Paul Kotula Projects, 23255 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3020.

Lynn Crawford is a fiction writer. Send comments to [email protected]