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"Affinities with Architecture" stresses the intrinsic relationship between man and his buildings.

"Home"-Made Art


"Affinities with Architecture"
VCU's Anderson Gallery
Through July 24

If home is where the heart is, then one need not look further than the current exhibition at Virginia Commonwealth University's Anderson Gallery. "Affinities with Architecture" features the works of 12 artists whose art formally, conceptually or otherwise deals with architecture. From painting to freestanding sculpture to photography, the show encompasses a broad range of media that is effectively unified through this thematic approach.

While some pieces deal directly with the subject such as Mark Bennett's blueprints for famous TV houses ("The Brady Bunch" and "Frasier," for example) or Ying Kit Chan's charcoal drawings of urban landscapes, other works seem to address diverse offshoots of architecture.

Peter Lenzo's sculpture is made from of wooden slats that form rustic reliquaries. His "Portable Gun Case Mary Altar" hangs upon the wall in three units. The outer sections are hinged to form sacred diptychs that contain cubbyholes and compartments holding various religious objects — a Madonna figurine, plastic Bible, crucifix and praying hands. These borderline-kitsch items are interspersed with handguns, either real or porcelain slip-cast replicas. Both the guns and devotional items are enshrined and venerated in a manner that alludes simultaneously to a Medieval altarpiece and a pickup truck gun rack. The congruence of weaponry and Christian icons suggests the melding of violence and religion — both are revered, both have a devoted following, and both historically have been linked.

Greg Shelnutt's dissected wooden birdhouses play with the concept of ornithological architecture. While a bird naturally creates a rounded, soft nest of sticks, grass and leaves, humans construct homes for their feathered friends with straight lines, angles and hard surfaces. Birdhouses are essentially miniature human houses; perhaps our arrogance as to what is good architecture — a box with a slanted roof — has caused us to superimpose this authority on animals and nature. Shelnutt underlines this notion with his titles ("Home is where...") and man-made or synthetic elements such as rubber, silver belt buckles and ladders. Jacqueline Bishop also creates wooden birdhouses that are painted over with glossy, vibrant scenes of birds in the wild. Somehow though, her works have a folk-art quality that doesn't quite congeal with the sophistication of the other works in the show.

Continuing the dialogue of man's manipulation of nature, Herb Parker's landscape architecture, as recorded via photographs, conveys a reverence for the ephemeral quality of man and his structures in the larger scheme of nature and the cosmos. Building up sod, grass or clay in the form of buildings, Parker's earthworks never lose the traces of human touch. Despite the organic materials used, he often leaves a human silhouette or even steel fences around the works that beckon the viewer closer and yet barricade him from further interaction. This push-and-pull of man and nature certainly strikes a metaphoric tone in our era of urban destruction and environmental awareness.

"Affinities with Architecture" is a fascinating and richly varied collection of "home"-made art. Indeed, the fact that architecture itself (the gallery and its rooms) contains this show on architecture — a type of meta-architecture — only strengthens and stresses the intrinsic relationship between man and his

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