Through Jan. 18, 2009, seven winners of the 2007 Mary L. Nohl Fellowship awards exhibit their work at Inova/Kenilworth. The gallery has been newly expanded to include the splendid "Black Box," a windowless addition for video and film. Gallery Director Bruce Knackert and curator Nick Frank have patiently whipped Inova into shape. All that's needed now is an exhibition budget of decent proportions.
Nohl Fellowship winner Mark Klassen offers a minimalist installation based in fear: terror on a New Jersey toll plaza, the possibility that an airbag will detonate when least expected, a sign emblazoned "Call Police Help!" Each scaled-down tollbooth is hand-built and painted icy-white. Directly overhead, faux fluorescent lights suggest an autopsy arena below. Nearby, five airbags silently threaten to detonate. Klassen's space is sandwiched between other fear-based groupings: the carnival-esque sculptures and drawings of Colin Matthes, who takes aim at the politics of war, and the stupefying forest of Gary John Gresl's in-your-face assemblages. Curiously Victorian, the forms made me wonder if I'd stumbled into a Museum of Maximum Oddities.
Annie Killelea's brief film unfolds in the aforementioned Black Box. Similar to'50s New Wave flicks, her work is grainy, depressing and based in reality. Ghostly Riverwest faces (funeral director Elaine Litzau, poet Eddie Kilowatt) flash by, interspersed with bottle-sucking tavern types drinking to the beat of drums. With the opposite of homemade films where families smile, wave and kiss babies, Killelea nails the terrible truth. Kevin Miyazaki's starkly cerebral photographs tell of the internment of his father's family during World War II, and in a nearby '60s faux living room, Dan Ollman's videos detail loss and longing.
Of all the installations, Faythe Levine's work signals unadulterated fun. Handmade Nation,2008, is a full-sized tent aflutter with pennants, postcards, posters, etc. Levine has made her mark in the do-it-yourself universe and, well, the tent unabashedly and fearlessly promotes her film and book. Rampant consumerism, not capitalism (a dollar honestly earned), underpins the way we've royally screwed ourselves.
Knackert and Frank have done a superb job with this exhibit. After all, the seven who made the Nohl roster were juried in last year, with Knackert and Frank handed the task of making the most of the jurors' selections. Task accomplished.