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Art Review

Three Exhibits Share Contemporary Approach To The Landscape

courtesy of the artist


The Wichita Art Museum recently opened three spotlight exhibitions: Liza Lou Gather (one million), Stuart Allen: Kansas, Low Resolution and Shawn Decker: Prairie. I expected these shows were going to be housed in three separate galleries, but all are installed in the museum’s large second floor gallery.

The gallery is divided into thirds, and I liked that each artist stood alone in their dedicated spaces. But, I’m not really sure why a unifying title wasn’t given to this show, especially since they are linked through their contemporary approach to the landscape.

In approaching Liza Lou’s work, visitors will find her large-scale pieces are made of a mind-boggling number of tiny glass beads. Shimmering under the gallery lights are three, gold-color field canvases accompany her installation, Gather (one million), a 150-square-foot installation made up of one million stalks of lustrous amber beads, bundled like wheat shocks, and arranged in a way that recalls Kansas wheat fields.

Credit courtesy of Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, Missouri
Stuart Allen, Kansas / Sunset No. 1, 25 Pixels, 2015. Pigment print on Somerset rag, 30 x 24 inches.

These subtle shifts in color take a different form in Stuart Allen: Kansas: Low Resolution, a series commissioned by WAM. As a photographer, Allen is concerned with distilling photographic records of Kansas landscape to pure pixels. The beautiful modulations of color captured in a small handful of pixels feels are sometimes barely perceptible from square to square .

Allen’s digital series shifts the conversations from Lou’s intense handmade work to the sound installation Shawn Decker: Prairie. Unlike Lou’s Gather, Decker’s Prairie looks nothing like amber waves of grain. Brass rods are laid out in a grid, like a distilled version of Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field. Decker’s rods broadcast the sounds of a landscape and small motors vibrate each rod. The whole gallery clicks and buzzes with the sounds of the prairie, and this soundscape sets the mood for the entire space.