Exhibit asks you to sail away on a voyage of discovery

A SETTING FOR EXPLORATION

August 21, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

The installation "EVENSTEVEN" at the BAUhouse tackles the subject of personal exploration -- encouraging viewers, according to a gallery statement, to ask the basic question, "Who am I?" While it may not work for all viewers on this level, it does succeed on others.

A collaboration between Oscar Villegas and Rebecca Barten (who says the title represents a "balance" between forces), it occupies the entirety of the BAUhouse's two gallery spaces. At the entrance to the main space is a list of explorers of one kind or another, from Leif Erikson to Neil Armstrong.

Hanging from the ceiling of this space are 3,000 boats of hand-folded white paper. Along the side walls are hung 50 clear glass "tablets," each bearing a yellow or green square (they alternate) above three lines of writing.

These lines also have to do with exploration, either specifically or vaguely. "Join the beagle/ship the beagle/beagle cruise" probably refers to Charles Darwin's voyage aboard the ship HMS Beagle, while "comb the pole/float/skirt the peaks" is more generic or at any rate less readily decipherable. There is also an audiotape component, on which voices utter whispered sounds.

In the small gallery are a single paper boat, a reproduction of a 15th century navigational instrument and a step-by-step demonstration of the paper-folding process.

The gallery statement suggests that the experience of the exhibit will result in some kind of personal exploration and revelation.

That didn't happen to this viewer, but the work is compelling nonetheless. The larger gallery space, with all the little boats floating in the air, the tablets marching silently up and down the walls, the cast shadows and murmuring voices, achieves an austere beauty that induces quiet serenity. The artists may think this work in more complex terms than that, but it does quite well simply as a place to be.

The exhibit runs through Aug. 30 at the BAUhouse, an independent multipurpose arts center at 1713 N. Charles St. For information, call 659-5520.

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