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All Mixed Up

Artspace's new show includes artists whose work contrasts sharply with each other.

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With that said, the seven DVD animations by Atlanta-based Willcocks steal the show. Entitled the "Seven Deadly American Sins," each postcard-sized screen displays a short loop intended to illustrate the concepts of greed, pride, lust, and so on. Though the subject matter is hardly new, the technical proficiency and idiosyncratic handling of the media go a long way to make up for the conceptual shortcomings. "Hate" depicts a small girl dramatically repeating the words "I hate you" while an unseen hand scribbles, in rotation, a variety of superimposed costumes, including a soldier's helmet, a burqa and a KKK hood. "Vanity" portrays a documentary-style portrait of a senior citizen listing the plastic surgery she'd like to have, while the same frenetic hand overlays a new nose, fuller lips and hair, and so forth. The final few frames of the work show the woman transformed into a crazed cartoon monster continuing to go on about her makeover options. Despite the use of some fairly played-out imagery (for example, oil wells to symbolize gluttony), Willcocks' videos do have an engaging cumulative effect. The overlapping voices of the videos create a discord that carries throughout the gallery.

Sharing in Willcocks' mastery over medium is New York's Barbara Rachko, whose cubist-influenced, pastel-on-sandpaper paintings and color photos are based on staged interactions of Mexican folk dolls. She purchases the dolls secondhand from various bazaars, and by using them as the primary players in her highly personal narratives, she hopes to give them a new life as objects. The mysteriously titled pastel "He Was So in Need of Botany" describes a familiar pictorial refrain for Rachko: a central figure (in this case, a toy Minotaur) surrounded by a group of allegorical spectators. The works seem to function as an ever-changing political drama whereby the viewer is the fly-on-the-wall witness to various meetings of dictators and insurgents.

The folksy tone of Rachko carries through to the collaborative work of local visual artist Shepheard and writer McAfee (a former winner of Style Weekly's fiction contest) in an exhibition titled "Emigrants." Like Rachko's work, "Emigrants" employs such a highly personal and convoluted narrative that it is rendered opaque to the uninitiated viewer. Shepheard uses a variety of collaged organic material such as rice paper, eggshells and hemp as backgrounds for McAffee's handwritten poetry.

In "Black Boxes," the artists place hollowed-out eggs, each with an obscure verse written on its shell, in 22 small wooden boxes fixed to the wall. The "situations" occurring in each eggshell vary from box to box, suggesting a cycle — sometimes the egg is cracked and appears to be falling, sometimes it is stable. The use of the egg as a (fairly cliché) metaphor for rebirth and fragility is the artists' way of somehow communicating with certain friends who have passed away. By doing so, they hope to accomplish their stated goal of "exploring the relationship between the dead and the living." However, unlike the videos of Willcocks, which are saved by their technical quirkiness, the collaborative installation by Shepheard and McAfee remains a bit uninspired. S



Work by Angela Willcocks, Barbara Rachko, Deirdra McAfee and Mark Shepheard runs through Oct. 30 at Artspace, 0 E. Fourth St. 232-6464.

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