Angela Valella

ArtMedia, Miami

By Hunter Braithwaite | April 17, 2014

What are the applications for such a title? It could be a pulled from a manual of any sort, instructing us how to put up wallpaper, bandage a wound, or any type of industrial assemblage.

Angela Valella

This generic instruction is so vague that it is almost mute, but it is a perfect fit for Angela Valella’s new exhibition, which is concerned with the equally non-specific systems and steps involved in processing and consuming images.

It’s a sterile title, one that smells of the factory, and one that ushers in Valella’s newest sensibility. An artist, writer, curator, and educator, the Miami-based Valella’s creative drive is just as protean. In the past few years, she has exhibited collaged paintings and nimble works on pages ripped out from Dante’s Inferno and other books. Recently, as part of the The Nightclub exhibition series, she presented a video installation, mountain footage projected onto a medium-size boulder. This piece, titled “One Must Imagine Him Happy,” is a nod to Camus’s conclusion in The Myth of Sisyphus. It also hints at a literary current flowing through Valella’s creative heterotopia. For Apply it to this Side, Valella presents a sculptural projector “On Being Slightly Suspicious” (2013). On a wooden table in the center of the gallery, two iterations of the same video (they were edited differently) shine through a gauntlet of multicolored plexiglass and opaque objects. As the images flicker and build on each other, an accompanying soundtrack emits clicks, beeps, and whirs. The effect of this synchronicity is a vaguely industrial set of image production.

Beyond that sculpture, two series of work expand upon the unfolding issues of producing, editing, and viewing images. Her “Afterimage” series are scanned collages of layers of different colors and shapes of crystal clear paper. These graphic compositions are at once happenstance and delicately executed. If they look quite similar to the images produced by the sculpture, it is likely because they were constructed out of the recycled film. Nevertheless, their mere resemblance pushes the acetate into an allegorical realm, commenting on how screens both aid and obscure sight. With all of the current talk about screens (digital, of course) and their effects on perception, Valella is quite sly to approach the same virtual queries from an analogue position.

Throughout, Apply it to this side acknowledges the end game before traces the steps backwards. Her “Guided Tour” series is a cheeky run through a Janson’s art history textbook. It’s a simple gesture: sheets of blank digital photo paper efface 99% of a canonical image. However, the gesture is more elegiac than patricidal, as if history still exists in the interstices. The feeling of absence is obliquely referenced in the final piece in the show, “Eliot,” which, as a hand-molded cylinder of unfired clay, attests to a time before the age of plastics. At just 6 inches tall, it is almost Neolithic, not Modernist, as the title suggests. As an object, it stands in utter opposition to the rest of the show. However, the title alludes to The Waste Land. Like this exhibition, that poem is disparate visions stitched together. Moreover, in both, much of what's most interesting has been purposefully cut out.