Exhibition Review: Pattern Languages

by Allie Donnell

Pattern Languages at the Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst University, curated by Kate Hackman,
September 30th, 2017 through October 21, 2017

In celebrating the Charlotte Street Foundation’s 20th anniversary, the Greenlease Gallery  at Rockhurst University is currently exhibiting Pattern Languages, a collection of works by Charlotte Street Award Fellows assembled by guest curator Kate Hackman.

Right away a sheet of office paper provides the visitor eight definitions of the word  “pattern”—a fundamental step that primes the idea of pattern in the mind and in helping to further discern how it manifests in each work. Yet as soon as patterns begin to emerge, layers come with them. One pattern leads to another, is both the subject (a pattern) and the verb (to pattern), and is ultimately the object of one’s ability to process and interpret.

Twenty-four works populate the space with a variety of mediums from acrylic paint and  denim to video, cardboard, African textiles, and even a sestina. The sestina, titled On the  Profundity of Patterns by Glenn North takes on the prose form whose codified structure alone speaks to the exhibition’s theme, while fields of vibrant paint swatches like that of Madeline Gallucci’s Sweeter Heat (Camouflage) intrigue the viewer with less pressure (or more?) to identify pattern.

Other pieces like James Woodfill’s OFFICE WORK, a table covered with approximately 21  notebooks containing 375 collage constructions, gives way to the exhibition’s conversational quality. The notebooks lay open with pages flipped over onto one another creating a unified collage that visitors are welcome to sift through. Susceptible to input, the table’s contents model a dialogue that is read and contributed to, similar to that of everyday conversation and even language itself as the piece is continually revised and left for the next person to interpret.

Hackman presents the idea of pattern as a container in the way it defines something and  thus contains that aspect of its meaning. HUH (Turkey Red, French White, Prussian Blue), a canvas replica of the American flag subtly altered by Archie Scott Gobber, promotes this idea as the flag itself contains the representation of the United States. The “HUH” formed in the stripes better contains the widespread pattern of shock, confusion, and dissent that represents the country’s current socio-political climate, and perhaps it is also a reflection of a pressing need to communicate, to rearrange the pattern, in order to better represent the sentiments of our time.

From piece to piece the idea of pattern is reworked and reapplied, but the amount of the  works make the exhibition’s cohesion reliant on the list of pattern definitions and the mental preoccupation of the viewer. The scope of the exhibition, albeit provoking, outgrows the space. These conditions impede on the integrity of each piece as well as the exhibition as a whole, leaving the viewer with thoughts pending and the idea of pattern unresolved. Maybe pattern as a point of entry into this exhibition and further into our world is a reflection of the individual’s consistent task to themselves pattern, or give form to, engage and communicate with their surroundings; as an entry point, not a destination.

 

Allie Donnell is currently an undergraduate studying art history at UMKC.

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