Fine Art

Leon Syfrit and Holly Lay provide a study in contrasts at Core Contemporary

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Left: “NV_Las [email protected] Diamond Road” by Leon Syfrit; right: a collection of Holly Lay’s pieces.
Photo: Left: (Courtesy), Right: (Cristopher DeVargas/Staff)
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Three stars

BLOW-OUT & FLOW'R-OUT Through June 1; Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Core Contemporary, 702-805-1166.

Contrasts—obvious, subtle, evident, nuanced—dominate a dual exhibition at Core Contemporary. Leon Syfrit’s BLOW-OUT features 10 black and white, large-format photographic portraits of busted tires, while Holly Lay’s FLOW’r-OUT presents 24 colorful floral sculptures made from synthetic yarn along with six large-format floral prints. The oppositions—“hard” photographs versus “soft” sculptures, grayscale versus polychrome and male/car versus female/garden—usher in a host of conceptual contrasts that overshadow the artists’ shared concerns.

Syfrit’s BLOW-OUT clearly dominates the spacious Core Contemporary gallery. The deep, velvety blacks and pearly whites of Syfrit’s graphic compositions grab the viewer’s attention as soon as the foot comes through the door. The subject matter is, initially, difficult to decode. Wire sculptures? Eroded plastics? Fossilized cacti? In each stylized photo, the object is positioned atop a stone pedestal and shot against a flat, black background; the minimalist aesthetic, combined with dramatic chiaroscuro, results in a theatrical atmosphere suitable for precious Greek urns or busts of Roman senators. But upon closer inspection, tread and fiber reveal that the content of each work is not a rare cultural artifact but a ubiquitous blown tire found on Interstate 15. The beauty of the photographs is sharply at odds with the explosive violence at their origin, creating an intriguing disconnect between apparently worthless pieces of trash and their decorative depictions. Syfrit does more than upcycle found objects so that they can be seen anew; by manipulating the trappings of art history, he imparts a new identity to the materials so that they take on a life of their own.

While Syfrit’s photos—printed by Erik Beehn at Test Site Projects—have instant visual impact, Lay’s FLOW’r-OUT produces a subtler effect having more to do with the open, competing spaces of the gallery than with the work itself. Her sculpted flowers, based on vintage video game graphics, are rendered in latch-hooked yarn and affixed to the wall, arranged in floral beds or suspended over simulated Greek columns. With their tongue-in-cheek daintiness and faux paint-by-numbers allusions, the sculptures push boundaries among craft, fine art, commercialism and domesticity. Fiber art, in general, is a tough sell in a gallery context, as the intimate nature of the material inhibits strong public statements. Presentation is everything. Lay’s large-format floral prints, too, would have benefited from more careful lighting and installation.

An interest in fibers and column pedestals unites Syfrit and Lay, along with a fascination for transforming materials—the inert tires become almost animate, while the flowers yield a complex, commoditized artificiality. Nature and culture swap positions. All in all, BLOW-OUT and FLOW’r-OUT is a thoughtful show well worth a visit.

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