“The Limits: Tracing Time and Seeing Space” confidently positioned art and science in aesthetic synthesis, without a lot of didactic fuss. The curator Crystal Mowry, a big intellect with a well-honed feel for objects and display, collected together artworks that manifest space/time ruptures as moments of perceptual awareness. Alyson Shotz’s giant wall work Folded Space Drawing #3 (2010) is a scaled-up version of a visualization informed by theoretical physics, made from woven yarn and many pins. In the show, the huge piece seemed to float off the wall, a two-dimensional image representing four dimensions, all the while shimmering precariously in three-dimensional space. In eight pencil drawings, Kristan Horton details a chronology of the First World War—each work is an impossibly intricate vortex of historically potent imagery. Horton’s drawing style strikes a perfect tension between illustration and interpretation: flags, sandbags, corpses, wounded soldiers, guns and medals are thoroughly rendered in fine detail, yet the mark-making is never overworked, and the images spin fluidly through sad, horrifying, familiar narratives. Shotz brings an abstract theoretical model into presence, while Horton uses iconic imagery from the Western imagination to send us back in time. In both works, indexical accounts of the skilful and painstaking labour that went into their making resonated in the real time/space of the gallery.
Throughout the exhibition, sensory perceptions collapsed together with representation and subjective knowledge. In Jani Ruscica’s spellbinding video Evolutions (2008), young people perform their own creation myths about the universe, inhabiting interstices between fable and science with integrity and conviction. Near Miss (2005) by Kerry Tribe materializes an ephemeral memory as video, photography and written text—complete with flaws and imperfections. David Spriggs’s multilayered mylar object-and-image hybrids provide little more than impressive eye candy, and Spring Hurlbut’s photographs of human ashes are almost too literal as somber missives of mortality, but Lani Maestro’s magnificent sculpture a book thick of ocean (1993) anchored the exhibition. The large book sat open on a solid wooden table. Every two-page spread shows the same black-and-white photograph of the surface of an ocean. The water, static but not frozen, acts as an existential cue for deep time, a reminder that difference inhabits sameness and that dynamic systems make up all forms of matter, from long-lived rocks and oceans to short-lived artworks and the humans who engage with them.