simulated fragments of suburban life

In the Galleries

by Mark Jenkins - July 25

Lisa Dillin and Allison Spence


“You are important to us,” recites the recorded message from the intercom attached to a white wall. The sentiment is insincere, of course, as is every artifact in Lisa Dillin’s “I’m looking for you . . .” at Hamiltonian Gallery. The Baltimore artist presents simulated fragments of suburban life, hinting at the larger simulation practiced by the developers of instant “communities.”

The most complicated piece is a working fountain, framed by polished stone to signify Euro-classical refinement, that burbles blandly in the center of the gallery. It looks like something ripped, complete with plumbing, from a shopping mall. Also included are a slab of composite flooring, mounted on the wall, and a 13-foot-wide print of a golf-course-like vista, partially obscured by a curtain. The grassy emptiness that’s visible is tidily scenic but suggests a sort of upscale quarantine. So does the Muzak-like ditty that plays after that intercom message: “All by Myself.”

While Dillin excavates the ’burbs, Allison Spence considers science fiction movies, horror comics and how they depict the human body. Her “More human than I am, alone,” also at Hamiltonian, takes its title from a line in David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.” To illustrate that bit of dialogue, the D.C. artist made some paintings that are crumpled and then varnished into permanently clenched disarray. Two unrumpled canvases recall Francis Bacon’s butcher-shop treatment of the human form, combined with the ever-manipulable quality of digital imagery. Whether stretched flat or randomly jumbled, Spence’s pictures are mutable and implicitly violent.

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