Walls And Enigmatic Canyons Come To Westville

Allan Appel PhotoAbout to enter the home-buying market in the Trump era?

How about an absolutely great deal on a fantastic unit beautifully located behind a wall?

Liz Antle-O’Donnell will give you a great, great deal. I mean a fantastic deal on your very own customized home.

And all for only $25.

Is that a great deal or what?

Artist PhotoShe’s making the offer of the homes — or perhaps you’d also like to check out her various gated, make that walled, communities, that she also has on the market?

You got it! Right this way.

The artistic wheeling-and-dealing is taking place at the Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville.

That’s where Walls, Antle-O’Donnell’s sweetly acerbic new show of linoleum prints (that’s what her homes are printed on), installations of rabbit and bear condos behind Popsicle-stick walls, along with videos and texts she’s done in collaboration with her husband Ryan O’Donnell, are all on view through April 30.

There’s also an opening reception on Saturday, April 8, from 3 to 6 p.m.

The show is interestingly paired with Enigmatic Canyons, photographer Alan Shulik‘s opulent and almost surreal digital photographs of Antelope Canyon and other slot canyons in Arizona and the American Southwest.

Artist PhotoThe joining of nature’s walls made by water and wind and those made by hustling humans to keep out other urban humans is only a coincidence of the schedule at the gallery, said both artists.

Yet it’s a provocative pairing nevertheless.

Antle-O’Donnell, whose previous work shown at the gallery featured patterns made by power lines, said she has long been interested in art that makes people think about the world we are living in.

Allan Appel PhotoAnd in Walls, she has hit the lottery of subject matter.

Although “He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned,” she said, does not directly appear in her show — there is no image of an anti-immigrant wall on the Southern border among her satirical offerings — still, all those fantastic images of canyon walls in Arizona by Shulik cheek by jowl with Antle-O’Donnell’s acidic send-ups of soulless real estate consumerism nearby do give pause.

“I got fascinated by gated communities,” Antle-O’Donnell said when, having given birth to her first child, Oliver, the young man for some mysterious reason would not let his mother sleep for about three months. Antle-O’Donnell began to watch endless hours of House Hunter-y type programs. Homes by the sea. Fixer-upper homes. She enlisted her also sleep-deprived husband in a growing fascination with watching YouTube promotional videos complete with virtual marketing tours of new developments. They researched the subject; they studied Walter Benjamin on the soullessness of reproduction.

The results are these installations, which include two videos, one called “Walls” and the other “Gates,” both done by Ryan O’Donnell, with some help from Oliver on the gong.

After you’ve bought your customized home for $25, it’s well worth listening to the couple’s video send-up of these tours.

They have made a video collage of promotional tours taken from online materials, slowing down the voices of excitement to where the sales guy sounds like a robot running out of batteries, and speeding up the virtual tour so that you drive so fast by the houses on offer in “the beautiful gated neighborhood” it’s impossible to see a detail.

While Antle-O’Donnell’s point, of course, is to ponder why so many of us live behind walls. Even if we go onto a porch or into a yard, it’s the back porch and the backyard, cut off from humans we don’t know.

Shulik’s images, meanwhile, seem to be offering a kind of antidote or at least a touch of hope from an unexpected quarter. In images so rich and detailed that the sandstone begins to have the quality of drapery and even dark chocolate ice cream swirls, they suggest that if humankind is perhaps reaching a point where we don’t like each other as much as we should, nature seems to be stepping up and, well, trying to act a little human.

The canyons “are filled with anthropomorphic forms, and this creates a sense of a living landscape, a surreal place where natural forms inspire the imagination,” Shulik wrote in an email exchange.

All of Shulik’s images are without humans except for one, with a little girl dwarfed by the canyon and yet being protected by it and its spiritual power.

Antle-O’Donnell, who for a decade has worn another hat as a pre-school teacher, has eliminated all humans from her show as well, although their presence is strongly suggested.

In their place, she gives us bears and rabbits cowering in their perforated Popsicle-fenced condos — unaware, she said, that whatever they fear still has access to them.

Suspended above the Porcelain rabbits is a chunky urban skyline suggesting, Antle-O’Donnell added, that there are “invisible walls” to contend with as well as the flagrantly gated ones.

For an artist whose goal is “to make art that makes people talk about what’s going on,” “Walls” is a success while also being sweet, smart, and quietly provocative.

Artist PhotoAnd Shulik’s gorgeous imagery of ancient walls and spaces, many sacred to the Navajo inhabitants, could not be a better companion exhibition.

In addition to the April 8 opening reception and artist talks, Antle-O’Donnell has organized a series of what she calls story hours, where she reads a text and has an activity for people of all ages — but especially kids — inspired by one of the works or themes in the show.

The next one is April 23. No confirmation yet on whether she will be deploying Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” whose famous opening line is “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” but whose even more famous refrain is “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Kehler Liddell Gallery, at 873 Whalley Avenue, is open Thursday and Friday, from 11 to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 4 p.m.; and by appointment.

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