By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Swenson
By David Villano
By Kyle Swenson
By John Thomason
By Michele Eve
"Exploding the Lotus" made me suspicious when I noticed that the name of co-curator Jaishri Abichandani was attached to three works. There's always the possibility of an overinflated ego. But after a second pass through the galleries, I became convinced that Abichandani's participation is far from arbitrary — indeed, hers are among the show's most provocative pieces.
The curator-artist's two-and-a-half-minute video Bijli: Heart of a Drag Queen (2006) is hard not to notice. Its wailing soundtrack hits you as soon as you enter the main gallery, and the simple imagery — a fully made-up drag queen performing — is projected onto the curving wall at the far end of the gallery. The text describes Bijli's treatment at the hands of a culture not known to be sympathetic to gender bending.
A second Abichandani video, Happily Never After (2005), runs two minutes and 12 seconds and is shown on a tiny DVD player. It's a drily funny little vignette in which a fortune-telling robot delivers seven possible scenarios, none of which is especially appealing.
Abichandani's most satisfying work here is one that deftly conflates the traditional with the modern, the secular with the religious. Untitled Camera Sculptures (2003-06) presents a quartet of mixed-media works, each an ordinary camera rendered extraordinary by the application of dozens and dozens of tiny fake gemstones. Abichandani has also gutted the cameras and replaced their innards with tiny figures — including, for instance, a Buddha's head — that transform them into something like miniature makeshift altars. Unlike so much of "Exploding the Lotus," these unassuming little sculptures are heady without playing head games.