"Smell of the Kill" makes aromatic art


Ellen West's piece, The House Special, pictured above, was designed specifically for the Hippodrome's new play, "The Smell of the Kill."

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 12:17 a.m.
What scents come to mind when you hear the phrase "the smell of the kill"? I can't say I have ever thought about it, but evidently artist Ellen West has. Her answer is cranberry, meat and sulfur.
These fragrances, represented with beads, wood, and bullet casings, are part of her latest piece, The House Special, a work designed specifically for the Hippodrome's new play, "The Smell of the Kill."
West has put together about 30 pieces including this new effort, for a one-woman show that runs in conjunction with the new play.
"It's weird as hell," says West of the exhibition. "I am having a lot of fun with it."
Along with the new work will be several well-known pieces. "The Lottery Mirror" uses a variety of numerical sorts (printing press fonts cast on metal blocks) to frame a mirror. The idea is that by looking in a mirror and asking the magic question, you will receive the correct lottery number. So far West has yet to order a new yacht so I think the piece is not quite dialed in.
Along with her trademark printing sort sculptures, there will be works focused on 3D and optical illusion.
An interesting coincidence is that West's daughter, Cady West Garey, has a role in the same play. This show opens tomorrow and will run through Feb. 4.
I spent a lot of ink on the Harn last column and here we go again. It's not that I am biased, it's those hyperactive curators rolling out one show after another. This time they have revamped the Cofrin Pavilion. In its inaugural year the new wing focused on modern American artists. With this new installation the wing has gone international.
A decade past, the idea of looking at art on a global scale was considered ground-breaking and a path for exciting new creations. The flip-side of this borderless, new-world mindset is the fear that homogenization has set in. Curator Kerry Oliver-Smith intentionally juxtaposes exhibit pieces in ways that show art has not lost its cultural identity.
The first pieces that greet you are all from American artists. Standing like sentinels in the front hallway are two ceramic vases by Betty Woodman. If the vases from the recently closed Magdalene Odundo exhibit epitomized the elegance of the classically formed vase, Woodman pieces take ceramics in an entirely different direction. The front of each vase has a ceramic slab with a Japanese woman portrayed upon it. In back are tall vases that one moment reminded me of stylized bamboo, and the next of stacked cans. Both pieces are exciting and unique, but a far cry from conventional pottery.
Don't fly through the hallway and miss the six wonderful Fernando Botero bronze sculptures in the courtyard. The pieces are sculpted with massive proportions and yet radiate a whimsical nature. The Ballerina is a fine example. If a dancer of this scale ever made a troupe, Arnold Schwarzenegger would be the only partner who could lift her.
Absolutely take time to see the animated video "Tide Table" by William Kentridge. The piece deals with the evolution of his country, South Africa, during his life. Childhood memories evolve into commentary on apartheid and the AIDs epidemic. Kentridge erases and redraws figures on the same page rather than drawing new pages for each frame. This gives an unusual sense of motion to the video and adds a greater sense of transition and evolution.
Kentridge also has four bronze sculptures that make up a work entitled Promenade II. As you study the piece, look at the sculptures from all angles. Each figure has multiple personalities: part human, part animal, part machine. One is modeled after the artist but I could swear it looked more like Alfred Hitchcock.
There are far too many fine pieces for me to mention here, so I am afraid you will just have to discover them on your own. This exhibit will be up for the next nine months but try to get there sooner.
As a final note, the 2nd Street Bakery is the latest alternative venue I have stumbled across. For January this funky little bakery is hosting the works of Laura Predny. The artist specializes in oil portraits. There will be a public reception on Saturday from 6-9 p.m. If you don't make it for the opening go on a Sunday, and while there, pick up a loaf of the Ancho-Chili Pepper bread. They only make it on Sundays and it's $6.50 a loaf. I know, I know, what bread could be worth that much? I thought the same thing and bought it to find out. Two of us devoured it in less than a day, and now I am so jonesing for another loaf.
David Hackett can be reached at davidmhackett@cox.net.
An interesting coincidence is that West's daughter, Cady West Garey, has a role in the same play.

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