Perfect Sense 

The art of the ideal at AMUM.

Don't let the title of the current exhibition at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis put you off. The works by the 13 Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City artists included in "Perfect: a group exhibition" are not limited by static designs or fixed visions. Chicago-based curator Marci Rae McDade's vision of the ideal is perfectly odd.

Complex process, common materials, and unexpected imagery were McDade's prerequisites for considering work for this exhibition. Amy Honchell's contribution, Perfect Specimen, fits the bill. Honchell stretched nylon around six hula hoops. Beneath this curvaceous body, a bright-red fishnet stocking loaded with marbles makes contact with a spot on the floor that is marked by a bright-yellow hoop. Whether this is a newly charged synapse, connective tissue, blood flow, or a new life form, Perfect Specimen is a wonderfully whimsical, original piece of sculpture.

Sculptor Ben Butler's 58-inch wood circle, Growth, consists of more than 30 bands of concentrically circling, jig-sawed plywood. A slight space between each of the bands creates snaking shadows on multiple wave patterns. Anyone looking at it for any length of time is guaranteed to experience a feeling of motion. It's mesmerizing.

Transcendence is a recurring theme. Conceptual artist and fashion designer, Catherine Chow achieves transcendence by thinking through some of the hidden agendas and gender stereotyping in fashion and advertising. Chow creates one-of-a-kind dress-wear out of materials such as sandpaper, dollar bills, sales tags, and twist-ties. Through her piece, Consume, she explores the multifaceted dynamics between art, fashion, and commerce.

Vincent Como finds his own transcendence by completely covering 63.5 square inches of drawing paper with marks made by a ballpoint pen. Untitled (Reinhardt) is a shimmering square of oil-based ink (black maroons, gray mauves, and dark coppers) that hangs on AMUM's white gallery wall. It's a unique variation of the black-on-white geometric paintings of Ad Reinhardt and Kasimir Malevich. Como describes his dark, nuanced field of color as a meditational space.

There's another black-on-white Reinhardt variation (in this instance, black-in-white) in the display cases in AMUM's entrance hall. With "Caseworks: Terri Jones," Jones complements and caps off "Perfect" by tossing five black squares into five white cubes. As usual, this Memphis artist says much with little. Like Reinhardt, Jones pares down the world. When you step back, the five consecutive, eye-level cases look like a series of film stills that tell an elemental story about relationship to space and the effects of gravity. Here, within the pure white of the display cases, the black squares sit up, kick back, and slump into a corner. Consider it something akin to performance art, because it's hard not to project yourself into these cubes -- to mimic the moves and the moods reflected in the squares' postures.

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