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Ballad of Barker’ pays collage tribute to space dog Laika

Image
A work from The Ballad of Barker.

Deep in the recesses of LA’s eccentric Museum of Jurassic Technology is an elegant and moving collection of portraits. Oddly similar to glamour shots, the paintings celebrate those brave dogs who gave their lives to space travel, honoring the enigmatic history of Russian canine cosmonauts with a fittingly heroic romanticism that left me misty eyed.

Similarly tucked into a tiny nook of Emergency Arts is a petite, elegant new gallery with an exhibition inspired by the first of these dogs: Laika (Russian for “barker”). In The Ballad of Barker, recent UNLV graduate Nico Holmes-Gull draws parallels between key moments in Laika’s short life with the foibles of contemporary philosophers and pop-culture iconoclasts.

The Details

THE BALLAD OF BARKER
three stars
Through January 23
Kleven Contemporary, inside Emergency Arts, 520 E. Fremont Street.

Holmes-Gull is a gifted collage artist, and Barker suggests an evolution in his approach to this popular medium. The five minimal “drawings” on display are essentially sheets of paper expertly incised with crystalline geometries that selectively reveal segments of colored paper hidden three or four layers below. The resulting latticework shapes are complex little explosions of color, pattern and isosceles triangles that float neatly on a sea of white.

This dense layering is an apt metaphor for the show’s labyrinthine content. Critical theory, comic book masterminds and titles like “Komuro Tetsuya hearts Dualism (before After)” constitute an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vibe that can complicate rather than demystify the drawings. But Holmes-Gull’s curiosity is infectious, and this young artist has only just begun to negotiate the multitude of influences careening through his brain.

With further investigation, Holmes-Gull’s sophisticated ideas and ambitious construction will jell. Beneath the obscure references, Barker is an earnest collection of delicate collages—and a bittersweet portrait of one brave little dog.

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Danielle Kelly

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