Who rocks the house? Like the Spice rocks the house and when Like the Spice rocks the house, they rock it all the way down. Like the Spice is pleased to present the work of two artists working with ambiguity. Rachel Beach creates wall-mounted sculptures that burst the boundaries between real and illusory visual perception. Nora Herting’s flocked photographs rest in the space between truth and fiction, celebration and expose. Any attempt to resolve the contradictions in these artist’s work rests on shaky ground.
We take in an overload of sensory information and process most of it automatically, we rely on neurological and linguistic shortcuts for almost everything. Enter the finely crafted work of Rachel Beach with its shortcut short circuitry tripping up our tidy perception. Each of her sculpture/paintings is designed to collide our visual perception of three-dimensional form with our perception of the illusory space created by the pieces’ painted and veneered skins. These visual acrobatics are more than Jedi mind tricks though. The perceptual flip-flops these works create sensitize us to our flawed biological circuitry; we know our brain is being hacked but remain powerless to see what is right in front of us. Usually we rely on the logic of “seeing is believing” but when viewing Rachel Beach’s work we can do neither.
Nora Herting’s Spirit series is also premised upon a meticulously controlled presentation of space but the performative space is transformed into social allegory. Based on photographs taken during cheerleading competitions, these works conflate distinctions between documentary and fantasy, public and private space as well as the viewer and creator. These photographs are unmanipulated documents of the performers they depict; each tableau was created in real time as part of a routine.
Removing the backgrounds and therefore the context both introduces ambiguity and an extreme focus on the cheerleaders themselves. The girl’s expressions of fierce determination and practiced smiles become archetypical. Placed in front of colorfully flocked backgrounds patterned with hybrid cheerleading-floral motifs the subjects become stand-ins for their competitive, athletic and stage-managed worlds. These photographs straddle the genres of sports documentary and social portraiture. Both staged and candid, real and constructed the cheerleaders are both specimens from another world and symbols of it simultaneously.