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Art Review: Leah Frankel, Shed Series

Nora Kilbane Nora Kilbane Art Review: Leah Frankel, Shed SeriesShed Series, 2 — Photo by Leah Frankel.
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The Shed is a delightfully DIY exhibition space tucked into the lovely back yard of a Clintonville home. Artist Blake Turner, who has worked extensively with non-permanent exhibitions and found spaces, claimed this little barn-like building and converted it into “an art space for realizing ideas.”  Although more casual, and certainly less commercial than traditional galleries, the art created here is every bit as thoughtful and engaging. Ephemeral installations, briefly on view during Wednesday night openings, are like sunsets or shooting stars in that they are fleeting but significant encounters that leave you feeling lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

This June, The Shed played both muse and “canvas” for a series of temporary installations by local artist Leah Frankel. An astute observer of the interplay between shapes and space, objects and light, Frankel manipulates these elements to help us see the extraordinary beauty that often goes unnoticed within the ordinary. Shed Series consisted of five installations created over the course of five weeks. Although thematically connected, each installation was a separate event—quickly assembled, put on view to the public for a short span of hours, and then dismantled or reconfigured for the following week’s project.

Each piece was inspired by the shed itself, and asked the viewer to consider aspects of this structure in new and interesting ways. In Shed Series, 1, the artist stretched string from the floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall to create a small model of the shed within its interior space. The convergence of these strings created a remarkable effect as a miniature shed materialized, delicately drawn with light and line, and hovering lightly at the axes of horizontal and vertical.

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For Shed Series, 2 (pictured at the top), the front doors were removed. Long strips of white fabric were anchored around the rectangular opening and swept dramatically through the structure to converge at the small window high on the back wall. The space of the shed, formerly used to contain, is transformed into a conduit for vision. Your eye is irresistibly pulled toward the window, and you find yourself considering the way in which this opening appears to frame and hold motionless the outside world while at the same time allowing it inside.

This interplay between interior and exterior was again explored in Shed Series, 3. Here, the detached doors were anchored by ropes and placed upright at a angle in the yard in front of the shed. The slant of the doors and the supporting ropes echoing that of the fabric strips inside. This repetition of forms created a continuity between inside and outside, integrating the structure both physically and visually with its environment in a playful new way.

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Rain postponed the opening during the fourth week, so Shed Series, 4 and 5 were on view together on the final night of the project. To my mind, this was the silver lining of the endless rain, because I loved seeing the two works together. For Shed Series, 4, the doors were reattached and the interior space once again enclosed. To view this work you climbed up a pile of planks stacked against the exterior wall and then peeked into the shed from the window high above, a vantage point which provided an entirely different way of considering the space. In the center of the room a single low-watt bulb dangled from a wire, and a bicycle tire hung horizontally suspended by string from the ceiling. One transparent, one solid, each a separate entity in its own plane and yet coming together to create the wide circular shadow cast on the plank floor below.

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The last work, Shed Series, 5, presented a variation on the mini-shed created for week one. In this iteration, a small model made of cardboard was placed on a viewing platform in the yard. Like the original, this version also had a square hole cut into the facade, and once again you were encouraged to peer inside. Initially this space appeared completely dark, but slowly the lines of light created by the seams in the structure appeared, defining the dimensions of the interior in a way that calls to mind the spatial meditations created by the circles of light and shadow in the larger structure nearby.

There are so many things about this series to enjoy — the intricate manipulation of scale and point of view, the lyrical repetition of forms, the orchestration of materials and space in a way that is both sensory and cerebral. The only downside is the series is complete, and now you will only be able to experience it through words and photographs. This is not the worst thing, but I do encourage you to keep an eye out for more installations by Frankel.

In the meantime, you can see more of her visual poetics at leahhfrankel.com.

Up next at The Shed:

Photo credits:

  • Shed Series, 1: Leah Frankel
  • Shed Series, 2: Leah Frankel
  • Shed Series, 3: Blake Turner
  • Shed Series 4: Leah Frankel
  • Shed Series, 4 & 5, detail of windows: Nora Kilbane
  • Shed Series, 5: Nora Kilbane
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