Within, Arlene Abend’s one-woman show at the Redhouse Arts Center, is an apt title expressing several meanings. It references the physical space in Abend’s sculptures, many of which are shaped like boxes. It refers to the mini-realities within those structures. That’s a place often populated by human figures or representations of people’s faces, and sometimes illuminated by bright lights. And the title touches on women’s consciousness, particularly notions of private and public personas.
In that vein, “Encased Illusion” presents an elongated female figure in a space that confines her. In a second work, “Time on My Hands,” two hands tightly clasp each other, and there’s a mood of worry or anxiety. “Fascinated Failure” conveys profound emotion. A woman weeps, and she’s partially obscured by a metal object that appears to be a cover.
“Emerging,” meanwhile, has a different feel. Here tiny steel figures, humans, climb upward, out of what appears to be a swamp or wasteland. Ultimately, two of them pop out of the sculpture’s top. Viewers may find a reference to evolution, commentary on struggle and triumph in people’s lives or some other meaning. The artwork is subject to interpretation.
Other pieces in the Redhouse show travel down different roads. In “Impending,” several figures stand on the ground while those moving upward are entangled in a mesh of metal wires. There’s a sense of conflict but not finality.
Elsewhere, “Fractured Faces #2” communicates illusion as the sculpture’s interior is brightly lit. The piece features several objects, all in the shape of human faces, but it’s difficult to count them or to see exactly where they are. Looking at the artwork from one angle creates one impression; viewing it from another angle fosters a different percep tion.
This work isn’t about mere visual trickery; it encourages viewers to think about not only changes in vision but change in general.
“Remembering” features a female figure riding a swing from a playground. The artwork seems to evoke childhood. In “Life Is A Circus and A Puzzle,” the steel figures go through several stages, taking part in gymnastic routines and also suggesting human potential.
These and other sculptures don’t form a visual pattern and certainly aren’t intended to communicate a straighton narrative. Rather, they reveal and highlight Abend’s free-wheeling artistic approach, her penchant for heading down various paths in her work.
Beyond that, the exhibit provides full exposure for her cast resin sculptures. It’s not as if that style of work never appeared in a show. “Emerging,” for example, was part of Abend’s 2010 solo exhibition at the Edgewood Gallery.
Within, however, is devoted entirely to this sector of the artist’s work. There’s an opportunity for viewers to contemplate the sculptures, to get a sense of both individual pieces and the exhibition’s scope. The show centers on light’s power to reflect or distort, on divisions between interiors and exteriors in a physical or personal context, on ways of considering life. Finally, it documents continuing artistic growth for a sculptor who’s had a long career.
Within is on display through March 22 at the Redhouse’s Joan Lukas Rothenberg Gallery, 201 S. West St. Viewing hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and before and after scheduled events at the arts center. On Thursday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., Abend will give an artist’s talk followed by a 7:30 p.m. screening of Stretching Boundaries: Life Work of Arlene Abend, a 2010 documentary produced by Michael Barletta and Courtney Rile of Daylight Blue Media. For more information, call 425-0405.