The Buffalo News
Date: Friday, October 25, 2002
By: By BRUCE ADAMS – News Contributing Reviewer
Illustration: Gerald Mead imbues small household items with big import.
WHAT:”micro-illuminations” New Work by Gerald Mead
WHEN: Through Nov. 3
WHERE: Fanette Goldman/Carolyn Greenfield Gallery, Daemen College, 4380 Main St.
In the often-bombastic world of contemporary art, where bigger is frequently equated with better, Gerald Mead thinks small.
Each of the works in “micro-illuminations,” Mead’s new series of collage/assemblages at Daemen College, is smaller than the proverbial bread box. And many of the tiny found objects and images used in their construction are from an era when people actually used bread boxes.
Peering through the glass front of Daemen College’s jewel-box of a gallery, one spots vintage lamps, camera parts, books, projectors and rabbit-ear antennas, all lending an air of nostalgic familiarity. A closer look reveals meticulously crafted miniature works complexly layered and encoded with cultural references, complicated by multiple visual and verbal puns.
Added to these familiar Mead tactics is a new ingredient: actual light. Each work contains its own light source – the only illumination in the otherwise darkened gallery – creating an overall effect somewhat akin to a candle-lighted chapel. This chapel-like atmosphere may be exactly what Mead is striving for; many of these intimate works possess an iconic quality, like radiant little shrines.
In “Celebrity ziggurat,” for instance, Mead centers a miniature stepped pyramid beneath the glow of a small table lamp, which itself circumscribes the margins of a larger pyramid shape. The stepped pyramid is comprised of five stacked images of tightly cropped faces – faces that, though unrecognizable, presumedly are those of celebrities. The whole piece provides a cunning commentary on the cult of celebrity worship.
The ziggurat form appears again in “Yucatan micro-projection.” Here, an elegant vintage slide projector throws an image of the Mexican temple, Chichen Itza, onto a tiny paper “screen.” A barely visible stone particle is affixed to the paper’s center. This reliclike fragment and optical miniaturization of the massive temple gently lampoons our cultural fondness for collecting historical mementos.
The fascination with fragments continues in “Argus cascade,” one of several works involving images of Niagara Falls. A slide of the falls – the kind commonly found in souvenir shops – is visible through a small viewer. From an opening on the side, pieces of shiny black stone cascade out, while a prismatic strip mounted on top mimics a rainbow.
A sense of genuine reverence comes through in these works, perhaps derived from what seems an almost ritualistic execution. One can imagine Mead assembling these complicated objects as if he were engaged in a sacred act.
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