Volume 38, Issue 10
Dec 2007 / Jan 2008
p. 20

“Alexis Weidig at OVERTONES”

In some of her recent work, installation/assemblage artist Alexis Weidig has thought big, filling gallery spaces with innately lavish constructions. In these more elaborate installations, expressive sweep met with fussy detail work in art underscored by swirling references to her Albanian heritage, he Orthodox Church, and feminist concerns about gender roles and domesticity.
In her recent exhibition, Small Things/Te Voglat, the focus tightened and the scale diminished. And, yet, despite the presence of multiple smaller works, on the walls, the floor, and shrine-like combinations thereof, this was more cogently connected than it pretended to be. Discrete works became parts of an organically entwined and evolutionary whole. Just as her more environmental installations relied on the accrued energy and density of tiny elements and components--sometimes connected with a loose logic at once surreal and decorative--her Small Things was a willful blend of the macro and the micro.
Whatever the encoded messages and cultural dialectics in Weidig's work, it is also sensual on impact. Initial impressions suggest a ritualistic-leaning "found object" aesthetic at work, often using mundane, utilitarian materials, i.e. a ratty old thrift store chair, furniture parts, and tree limb fragments decorated and elevated with gold lace and beadwork.
Ambiguous and ambivalent interpretations lend energy and intrigue to pieces readable as shrines, social critiques and absurdist mash-ups, simultaneously. Set conspicuously in the center of the gallery, for instance, was The Bride's Fate, whose title implies an indictment of domesticity and repressive feminine stereotypes. But that air of gender polemics seems partly a ruse, as well, a dramatic ploy used to cleverly complicate the artistic plot. A retro kitchen chair is tilted backwards and impaled by a sharp tree limb. The presence of costume jewelry and gold leaf treatments lends a gaudy sheen, softening the innate tension of the scenario.
Added to the wild-yet-controlled mix of references here were self-conscious echoes of her own previous work, recycled and reconsidered. Serigraphs and manipulated photographs of past installations Athenaia and Kaljopi take on a character of self-appropriation. Yet, these two-dimensional works, dropped into the gallery like half-welcome volunteers in a garden, perhaps inevitably pale by comparison with the more engaging properties of the three-dimensional art here.
Lurking enigmatically at the end of the dim-lit hallway was Vaska, a table leg and disjointed chandelier parts all dolled up and nimbly abstracted. A smallish relief piece, Leki Wants to be Special, presents another case of disarming, odd beauty fashioned from disparate parts. Furniture bits are juxtaposed with Hibiscus branches, peacock-feathers and ragged scraps of wood paneling. All told, the component pieces could have been inspired by memories of her grandmother's sense of home decor, but have been reduced, roughed-up and compacted into a semi-abstract assemblage at once crazy and cozy.
While The Bride's Fate was the show's most startling piece--such is the power of an impaling--the real main attraction was the large Xhuliana's Prayer. Part relief sculpture, part shrine, part contemporary art statement and part religious regalia, it trains attention on a ceramic deity on a pedestal, surrounded by ceremonial branches, a truncated furniture piece jutting from the wall and a vibrant orange backdrop. With this piece and others, the artist taps freely into both the kitschy resplendency and the spiritual resonance of her heritage, while preserving her detachment and sense of irony and post-surreal design.

Alexis Weidig: Small Things/Te Voglat closed in October at Overtones, Los Angeles Josef Woodard is a freelance writer based in Santa Barbar