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Kim Abele's Body of Work is a stunning array of works, simultaneously provocative and elegant. One asks, how could this range of objects, voices and phenomenal volume of energy possibly belong to a single artist?

Upon closer inspection the singular force, continuity and order becomes clear. Content dictates form in these witty works that investigate the cultural environment and take the temperature of the social psyche.

Body of Work explores a range of artworks from public to private. Using an abstracted body assembled in a satin coffin as the central device or legend for mapping, with numbered tacks, Abeles pinpoints which works in the exhibit derive from hands, heart, or even spleen.

Internationally recognized, Abeles has long combined art with political activism and has produced a phenomenal number of pieces with pithy subject matter such as AIDS, environmental pollution, racism, and gender bias. "Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates" consists of portraits of presidents from McKinley - Bush, Sr. These plates are part of her provocative "Smog Series" in which particulate matter found in smog is used to create images on glass, porcelain or cloth. Accompanying the plates is "Zoe's Highchair (Forty days of smog)" in which an image of baby food is stenciled in smoggy residue on the baby's tray. Abeles says her "'Smog Collectors' materialize the reality of the air we breathe. They achieve their potency most effectively when the image contradicts their substance. My process is a private retaliation brought to the public attention.

"The "Biographical Portraits Series from 1984-91" includes a poignant piece, "Letter to Phantom Lovers (Love as a Corset, Frou-Frou)." Center stage and hanging is a corset made from a mail pouch, describing the simultaneous safety, constriction and prolonged state of yearning of a long distance love affair.

Abeles' series, "The Image of St. Bernadette," makes use of the repetitive image of the young visionary from Lourdes. The artist reflects on the way the image has been mass-produced and pedaled on souvenirs since the 1850s. Ironically, the face has been canonized on objects from cigarette lighters to can openers and holy cards.

"Obervatory/Territory" is a sculptural contraption the artist built and physically entered for the purpose of mapping the stars - charting the paths of sun and moon. Like a mad scientist who is part artist, part sociologist and part humorist, Abeles trespasses into a sanctified territory where few dare to tread.

"Body of Work" contains a number of wry self-portraits where Abeles has photographed herself in black and white, sometimes dashing into the frame, sometimes sporting confabulated costume and always making a point. Included among her most personal works are "Crown of Thorns," a colossal wreath made from her grandfather's tools and "Zoe's Teeth," which include the incisors of her daughter.

Kim Abeles works collaboratively with the public in situations which range from "Rotunda Mapping and Valley Story Benches" to gathering personal histories from seniors for "Frankenstein's Hearts." She has traveled near and far, and has deservedly, been awarded many grants and honors. "Kim Abeles has moved pointedly from genre to genre, working in painting, photography, bookmaking, sculpture, installation (and cartography)." -The New Yorker. In this exhibition we glimpse fragments of her body of work and catch sight of her prodigious drive to examine, and reinvent both science and history.

Susanna Meiers

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 Last Updated On: 1/13/06