Fade to Black (and back)

Taking its title from the cinematic term for the gradual transition from a normal image to complete blackness and its antithesis, Fade to Black (and back) points not to an end or demise, but to the transformative potential inherent in change, be it short-term, long-term, subtle or drastic. The works in the exhibition express a range of approaches, from a spirit of resourcefulness, optimism and action (and a little wishful thinking) to a deep appreciation for keeping historical memory alive.

Combining traditional quilt-making with methods of recording time and place, Anna Von Mertens' diptych Dawn (Anna Zerissa Morse Thurston, born February 6, 1841, Surry, Maine) and Dusk (Anna Zerissa Morse Thurston, died April 11, 1886, Oakland, California)presents scenes from the morning and evening on the birth and death of pioneer woman Anna Zerissa Morse Thurston. This work is from a series entitled Endings , where the artist utilized a computer program to calculate the rotation of stars in relation to a geographic location as seen at a specific moment. Von Mertens' process of hand-dyeing and hand-stitching cotton fabric straddles a line between painting and craft, embracing tradition while simultaneously expanding the notion of painting.

Inspired by modernist architecture and design, Edgar Orlaineta melds deconstructed versions of iconic objects of such renowned designers as Harry Bertoia and Michael Thonet with live plants, combining functional and organic forms to represent collapsed utopias. In Sophie , the abstracted form of a rose has informed Orlaineta's manipulation of materials, resulting in a living monument to Sophia Magdalena Scholl, a prominent member of the non-violent Nazi resistance group White Rose from the early 1940s.

Invoking the religious scenes of painter Georges de La Tour, Peter Rostovksy's black and white watercolors capture moments of assembly during candlelight vigils honoring victims of shootings in recent American history. Taking some photographs himself and culling others from the Web, Rostovsky reflects on his fascination with the mediated image by offering a portrait of our time that is both familiar and ordinary, yet charged with allegorical meaning.

Jude Tallichet's black atoll-shaped sculptures are an arrangement of three casts of the same pile of abandoned clothing that suggest The Three Shades atop Auguste Rodin's monumental Gates of Hell. The figures originally pointed to the phrase Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here). Articulating clothing that has fallen into piles on the floor in minute detail -- folds, creases, stitches and buttons -- these surrogates approach the human quality of the figures that once inhabited them, conjuring a sense of mystery that suggests sexual rapture or inexplicable events.

With a keen eye on recent events and drawing from art history, Jason Middlebrook focuses on themes of ecology, entropy and environmentalism. Middlebrook works with an array of materials in a variety of forms that include the recycling and transformation of discarded materials into comprehensive atmospheres and functional furniture. With an emphasis on the tense relationship between man and nature, Middlebrook approaches our seemingly apocalyptic future -- the effects of oil dependence, natural disasters, urban sprawl and the extinction of species -- always with a deep sense of social awareness, responsibility and advocacy.

Mixing cash and magic in a witty assessment of our economic times, Sarah Cain's appropriately titled eye of the storm is a talisman for money. Composed of dollar bills that have been folded into subtle geometric forms and painted on both sides, Cain uses existing symbolism -- the eyes of George Washington and the uncapped pyramid of the United States dollar bill -- as a point of departure for her abstract compositions. Cain has long drawn on art that falls outside of the traditional canon, employing modes stemming from talismanic practices, graffiti and direct raw mark-making from the visionary ecstatic traditions. Continuing to push the boundaries of both abstraction and painting, eye of the storm questions the concept of value and pokes fun at the absurd notion that money has the ability to produce magical or miraculous powers.

Combining a punk ethos, gritty urban aesthetic as well as literary, musical and cinematic citations that revolve around the violent dynamics of lust, dominance, subjugation and resistance, Lovett/Codagnone poetically challenge the socially constructed and loaded use of explicit cultural signifiers that are imposed on identities. Embracing repetition as an assertion of difference and an urgent proposal to act, the installation REPEAT consists of black painted mirrors that bear the phrase "To Say Something New To Create Something New," taken from Gilles Deleuze's mantra. A site-specific wall painting inspired by French writer Jean Genet and urban décor will be on view in the penthouse gallery.

In the series Sorted Books Project, Nina Katchadourian focuses on the idiosyncrasies and/or inconsistencies of a library's holdings to create loose portraits of the library's owner. The photograph Made of Iron from The Akron Stacks makes light of the trope about the glory of males in the face of dire situations. Photographed in a wide range of locations, including private homes and specialized public book collections, these works have been created by selecting particular titles and grouping books into clusters so that the titles read as concrete poetry. Believing oneself to be "made of iron" implies one has the strength and ingenuity to save the world. But as Katchadourian's poem playfully suggests, the end is near -- and the victor is not without sentimentality.