Review of "Over + Over,"
Addison Gallery of American Art in
Andover, Massachussets, April 29 - July 31, 2005

The Boston Globe
"Repetition makes the ordinary sublime"
by Christine Temin
July 20, 2005

'''Over + Over + Over + Over + Over + Over + Over + Over" reads the introductory wall text for the current show at the Addison Gallery. Under the ''overs" is a lengthy list that starts with ''100 surgical scalpel blades" and ends with ''8,000 pin pricks."

These, and a lot of other unconventional art materials, are the ingredients favored by the 13 artists in ''Over + Over: Passion for Process," a traveling exhibition organized by Judith Hoos Fox and Ginger Gregg Duggan. While odd materials play a key role in the show, its larger theme is repetition. All the artists are obsessed with it.

In a frazzled, frantic world out of the artists' control, there must be something calm and consoling in doing the same thing every day, making a ritual of it, just as other people enjoy the routine of polishing silver or ironing. The curators also link the current surge of compulsive art with the Arts and Crafts movement of a century ago, which championed a return to laborious handicraft as a retort to the sloppily made mass-produced works of the Industrial Revolution.

What would the Arts and Crafts folks have thought of laborious handcrafted work made out of thousands of twist ties? Those coated wire conveniences that bundle your broccoli in the supermarket and tie the plastic bags containing what's left of it on trash day are the medium of choice for Rachel Perry Welty. Her two giant works are made of 10,000 of them, twisted into one 2,600-foot-long string that goes back and forth along the wall in horizontal lines packed close together, with an occasional line diving into a diversionary diagonal. They're alluring, these lumpy lines. From a distance they're glittery and complex; up close, you appreciate their texture and the fact that you can read words on some of them: ''leeks PLU 318," or ''organically grown."

While in some other societies artists work with ordinary materials because that's all that's available -- art made of safety pins or telephone wire is big in South Africa -- the artists in ''Over + Over" choose to work with mundane materials. The six-pack of Budweiser that's the basis of one of Liza Lou's pieces is about as ordinary a form as you can get, but by covering it with thousands of glittering beads she gives it a weird glamour. Jennifer Maestre uses pencil stubs to create sculptures with anthropomorphic qualities: The shapes seem almost to breathe, and in the case of ''Primal Scream Therapy" the stubs form a head with gaping mouth. Her more abstracted works are better; this one reads as kitsch, like those inflatable punching bags printed with Edvard Munch's iconic ''Scream" figure.

Chakaia Booker's gigantic ''Echoes in Black (Industrial Cicatrization)" is made of old, ripped-up tires. The piece suggests both the remains of the largest vehicular accident in history and one of Louise Nevelson's all-black wall reliefs. Devorah Sperber replicates an Oriental rug pattern with hundreds of Letraset marker caps. When you confront the piece directly, marker caps are what they look like. When you gaze into the nearby convex mirror that's part of the piece, though, the caps form a completely convincing carpet.

Lisa Hoke uses throwaway cups made of paper or plastic. Her ''Moonglow" explodes out of a corner of one Addison gallery. She arranges the cups in giant whorls, keeping the piece orderly by putting cups of one shape and color together -- turquoise, orange, fuchsia, and so on. Some groups of cups project out from the wall, and in the case of the conical cups (the kind used in water machines), they seem slightly aggressive, like missiles. There's a dollop of paint in each of the clear plastic cups, as if Hoke is acknowledging this old-fashioned art-making material as a viable option, still.

Tom Friedman is the jokester of the group. His ''Loop" is a tangled mop made of cooked spaghetti; it looks like the ultimate bad-hair day. His ''Untitled" consists of 36 dollar bills folded with extreme precision, then assembled into a giant version of the original, with lots of overlap so the piece is a blur from even a few feet away, but when you're really close you see multiple pairs of George Washington's eyes staring at you, a creepy sensation.

Nina Katchadourian, Victoria Haven, Juliann Cydylo, Tom Fruin, and Fred Tomaselli all also manipulate paper. Tomaselli's work is the most intriguing because it seems so innocent at first, but then takes a bizarre turn. To create his bird collages, he cuts images out of bird-watching guides, but fills in the shapes with paper from Land's End catalogs. He's created mutant forms of life by crossing an aviary with camping gear.

The lesser works in ''Over + Over" make you wonder how long they took to create. The best transcend that. The best of the best is the work of Elizabeth Simonson, who makes arcs of wire swoop along a wall, gather momentum, and peter out. The effect is like a carefully composed symphony. She does something similar with EVA foam, a black substance she arranges on the floor. It swells, spreads, and then dissipates, like waves losing their force and finally breaking on a beach. -Christine Temin

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