‘Creating Absence’ twists the ordinary

"Creating Absence" will be on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art through Nov. 23.
“Creating Absence” will be on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art through Nov. 23.

Occupying the gallery space near the reception desk at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) is the group show “Creating Absence” by Ogden-based collective O-Town Arts. Representing the works of Bruce Case, Holly Jarvis, Derek Rigby and Josh Winegar, this show, which runs through Nov. 23, is part of the larger Utah Biennial. Concerned with the strangeness of everyday life, the exhibit aims to examine how normal circumstances can become jarred and warped.
In the gallery space, the grotesquely balanced sculpture “Clamped Filters” by Bruce Case is noticed first and dominates the center of the gallery. Made of metal braces, pipes, a plank of wood and some filters, the piece is a seemingly random collection of found objects and appears on the brink of collapse. Centered on a cinder block, the composition eerily floats. The dynamics of its objects and weights horrifically defy gravity. Nothing about the formation is structurally sound and every fiber of the viewer’s body knows and fears its imminent collapse. Yet it remains standing, defiant to the laws of physics, beguiling the audience’s expectations.
Upon closer inspection, the plank of wood reveals itself as an old teeter-totter board. By shifting and disfiguring a common toy, Case is able to highlight how the most inane objects can become estranged from reality and experience. With sharp jarring angles on the verge of crumbling and impaling the viewer, “Clamped Filters” forces the audience, almost unconsciously, to move closer to the walls where visual art is available.
Looking at the decorated walls, the viewer can then appreciate the intimate juxtapositions of Josh Winegar’s photographic works. The simple idea of taking family snapshots and folding them into new compositions becomes an ambiguous statement of truth — the folded photographs vanish the subjects, leaving horizon lines and floating body parts. By fading direct content, the photographs betray a feeling of apprehension. Image after image of gnarled, mannequin-like limbs float over fields, walls and paths.
By removing the family from family photos, Winegar creates an ephemeral sense of wonder and confusion through the act of destruction. The physical creases of the photograph remind spectators that physical objects are different from the objects they portray. Through erasure, Winegar creates and calls attention to an absence more powerful and telling than the simple snapshots he eviscerated.
Looking into the feelings and ideas spurred in the presence of absence, these artists demonstrate the power ordinary forms possess. From the reordering of children’s play equipment to the manipulation of family memories, this show reveals how everyday becomes strange and the promises disjunction holds.