When we gaze back over our lives, whether through rose-colored or gray-tinted glasses, we see either sunlit halcyon afternoons or dark nights of the soul filled with “What if…?” and regret. This month, Carrie Iverson and Stephen Scott Smith turn their very different lenses on the machinations of memory and the relationship between the past and present. Iverson’s Correspondence at Bullseye Gallery unflinchingly explores the memory loss experienced by the artist’s father. When you walk into the sepulchral, windowless exhibition gallery, you enter a world of gray: mixed-media works in a grayscale palette that wash over you like a bank of fog. Here, all that was once distinct has blurred; all that was congealed has dispersed, like a web of neurons that has frayed and torn. The artist has taken objects associated with her father and transmogrified them into elegies in paper, kiln-formed glass and chalkboards on which all writing has been obscured into messy indecipherability. A milky glass plank called Redacted (which would have been a chilling title for the exhibition itself) evokes diary pages that have faded or been erased. Iverson conjures an atmosphere of sfumato and stone-washed memories, in which all concretes have eroded into ghostly traces of their erstwhile referents. This is a technically assured and courageous inquiry into the disappearance and endurance of memory.
The memories in Stephen Scott Smith’s Burlap 2B are those of a Gen-X’er now in his late 30s, slipping nostalgically and perhaps uneasily into middle age. Curated by Smith’s longtime gallerist, Mark Woolley, the show is a literal and epistemological deconstruction of Burlap, the artist’s November 2010 exhibition at the Breeze Blocks Gallery. In the previous show, Smith installed an enormous beech tree in the gallery’s center, alluding to the uprooting and artificial preservation of our collective and individual pasts. This time there are rectangular chunks of wood in the spot where the tree stood, as if the raw materials of memory have been ruthlessly disassembled. On the gallery’s walls, Smith’s large-scale drawings recall classic ’80s motifs with droll wit, including an image of Ronald Reagan wearing a Star Wars pin, an allusion not only to the famous film series but also to the Strategic Defense Initiative (nicknamed “Star Wars”) championed by the late president. The back-gallery installation, “These Dreams,” feels—but does not precisely look—like an archetypal ’80s teenager’s bedroom, filled with contemporaneous vinyl LPs and more of those mysterious wooden blocks. The installation, like the show itself, is an eerie simulacrum of a past that is as much a construction zone as it is a construct.
SEE IT: Correspondence is at Bullseye Gallery, 300 NW 13th Ave., 227-0222, bullseyegallery.com. Closes Nov. 19. Burlap 2B is at Breeze Block Gallery, 323 NW 6th Ave., breezeblockgallery.com. Closes Oct. 1.