Fine Art

Tamar Ettun’s ‘Jubilation Inflation’ expertly plays with your emotions at the Barrick Museum

Image
Sitting inside Tamar Ettun’s Orange Inflatable.
Photo: Josh Hawkins / UNLV Creative Services and Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Four and a half stars

TAMAR ETTUN: JUBILATION INFLATION Through December 15; Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Thursday until 8 p.m.); Saturday, noon- 5 p.m.; $2-$5 suggested donation. Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, 702-895-3381.

The Barrick Museum’s lively Jubilation Inflation is a show about the body—your body. Your impossible stillness and irrepressible movement, your dutiful lungs, your eyes irresistibly drawn to a rolling orange, your ears deciphering a modulation that you can’t quite place. Is it the sound of wind streaming through leaves? Frying eggs?

Sensory maestro Tamar Ettun’s Jubilation Inflation is remarkable not only for its ambitious range of work—installations, sculptures, photographs, videos, soundtracks, performances, text—but also for its tight conceptual framework. The exhibition culminates four years of research, each year devoted to a different color and emotion: blue/empathy, yellow/desire, pink/aggression and orange/joy. Inspired by Ettun’s performance art, Jubilation Inflation investigates how bodies respond to color, material, objects and one another.

Dominating the Barrick gallery are four “inflatables”—colorful, colossal balloons made of parachute fabric and hand-stitched by Ettun into giant geometrical cushions or hulking biomorphs. Designed to be poked, pushed and nudged, the inflatables are part tent, part bubble. A discrete Velcro slit allows viewers to scoot inside a living, breathing color field that shivers and judders in response to movement. Like Jonah inside the whale or Neo inside the Matrix, the viewer and the inflatable exist in a symbiotic relationship, the cozy color-blob immersion producing an emotional, even spiritual, experience.

In small-scale sculptures, Ettun engages the body by updating traditional nude portraiture, combining classic techniques, such as body casting, with interactivity and atypical materials. In “Odeya,” for example, a half-cute, half-menacing cartoon creature stalks the viewer with two motion-detector spotlight eyes. Other sculptures allude to contemporary performance/video artists, or dialogue with art history. “Cut Cello With Hand and a Tower,” for example, rebrands the Modernist woman-as-cello motif by topping the bisected instrument with a cutesy-but-flaccid mixed-media erection.

Like a Rosetta Stone, Ettun’s videos provide insight into her practice, particularly the use of body at its core. Made in collaboration with the Moving Company, a dance/acting collective Ettun founded in 2013, the videos probe freedom and obstruction, stillness and activity, attraction and repulsion. The performers adhere to a controlled grammar of startling movement: women lacing their tennis shoes with their own hair, holding tomatoes between their legs. The videos are striking as much for their content as for their lush, visual quality and use of thematic color. Eight stills in the show argue for Ettun’s painterly eye.

Nine videos/soundtracks by other artists—plus a poem—expand the show’s variety without lessening Ettun’s artistic authority. Jubilation Inflation is not to be missed.

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