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Dreamland's 'Bodily Echo' navigates complex issues of memory, race

Dreamland is not your typical white cube of a gallery. Striving for sexual, racial and gender-based inclusivity and accessibility, this Franklin Street space brings unique programming and difference to Buffalo.

Entering to see the latest exhibition, my eyes were immediately drawn to the gallery space floor. There, upon the ground, a haphazardly twisted and almost casually looped length of rope seems to have been discarded. Frayed and blackened, this piece rope is anything but innocuous: it’s a noose.

“This is Endurance” (2015) by Ashley Powell is included in the new Dreamland exhibit “Bodily Echo,” curated by Dana Tyrrell. Navigating complex themes such as memory, materiality, absence/presence and race relations, “Bodily Echo” features works by Powell, Tricia Butski and Jaime Schmidt.

In the curatorial statement, Tyrrell commented on the diverse artists in the show: “Considering their dissimilar styles and methods of execution, what these artists focus upon is the bodily experience, whether manifest in drawings, a site of healing and bodily revision, or as the echo of history surrounding bodily trauma.” An ambitiously broad breadth of themes to cover and interweave in a group show including only three artists and eight works, but “Bodily Echo” delivers nonetheless.

Tricia Butski, "Semblance," charcoal on paper, 2015.

Tricia Butski, "Semblance," charcoal on paper, 2015.

Tacked and pinned, “Bodily Echo” embraces Dreamland’s DIY aesthetic. Aside from “Endurance,” all of the works included in the show are hung on the wall. Butski opens the show with two figurative drawings on paper: “Transience” (2015) and “Semblance” (2015).

Refusing to coalesce into a readily identifiable form, the latter large-scale work oscillates between abstraction and figuration while retaining a bodily affect. Truly, a semblance.

Jaime Schmidt, "Epithelization," mixed media, 2015.

Jaime Schmidt, "Epithelization," mixed media, 2015.

The four paintings by Schmidt take the thesis of the show from the (mis)remembered body highlighted in Butski’s work to the corporeal body. In particular, “Purulent” (2015) and “Epithelization” (2015) focus on the visceral materiality of the damaged body. Texturized, abstracted and sculptural, these two works incorporate coloration, mold, fabric and layers of texture. Refusing circumscribed borders, Schmidt’s works echo and recall the physicality and mutability of surface.

In addition to her rope piece, Powell’s “Twerk” (2016) furthers the reference to the body vis-à-vis silhouettes of legs and buttocks blind embossed on to white paper. Impressed as it is into the white paper without ink, the legs nearly disappear into a play of shadows on the gallery wall. This focus on the lower half of the body, when conjoined with the title “Twerk,” is anything but soft. Together, her works incisively comment on the racialized body.

As with the looped noose in “Endurance,” this show resonates deeply when one considers from what emotional registers, moments of history and depths of memory these works are echoing with us today, here and now.

ART REVIEW

What: “Bodily Echo,” works by Ashley Powell, Tricia Butski and Jaime Schmidt

When: Through Feb. 24

Where: Dreamland Studio & Art Gallery, 387 Franklin St.

Info: dreamlandarts.org

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