Pat Beachley's current work suffers from the notion that bad taste always makes for good art. 

Anxious Assemblages

Pat Beachley: "Seeing is Believing"
Astra Gallery
Through Aug. 28

Pat Beachley is an excellent spokeswoman for her current body of work now on view at Astra Gallery. Her accompanying artist statement is a beautiful and cerebral piece of poetic discourse on the fetal kick of art making, enhanced with a profound awe for its processes and consequences. Her fresh-out-of-graduate-school enthusiasm is indeed validated by an impressive list of credits for an emerging artist: juried shows, reviews and invitationals by some well-weathered curators and critics.

It's a curious thing to feel so at odds with such respectable authority, but this critic thinks the work in this show is not fully able to prove itself on its own, or to rise to the key resolve expressed by the artist in her statement on attaining "a synthesis and a phoenix-like rebirth."

It is not Beachley's intention to offer an ameliorating experience to the viewer in these mixed-media constructions of wood, steel, cast metal and (unfortunately) carpet. Beachley is stalking dissension; doing Dada. She wishes the viewer to experience the pin dropping out of the hinge and the hinge's subsequent refusal to realign. Beachley also wishes to provide a sensory visual experience. One that is textural: steel to wood to fuzz.

The basic structures of some of these works have a sophisticated intelligence and lyricism that survives Beachley's inclination to dress them down with the introduction of awkward, mundane and conflicting components. "The Removal Of Mr. Johnson's Pancreas" traces an exultant steel arc through the air like a Japanese brush low on ink. It has the wicked hint of calipers as well. The cast parts, especially in "Wooden Shoe" and "Cross Eyed Bear," are sublime biological anomalies that protrude here and there; painted aluminum hernias or sexual equipment.

Through these elements, humor enters the scene on the arm of hyperbole. It all begins the rise from the ashes until the olefin covered plywood intercedes in the name of contemporary angst and a rather widely held notion that bad taste always makes for good art. As an original thought, this aesthetic overhaul was important. Robert Rauschenberg, Kurt Schwitters and many others were the fathers of the technique of assemblage of industrial materials from cast-offs into formal order. Any contemporary return to this approach should ideally try to offer something new, a feat that is easier said than done.

Additionally, anxiety and aversion are psychological states that are most potently layered covertly into a story. In literature, they generally accumulate slowly. Visual artists do not have the same luxury of slow revelation as writers, and must employ other devices. However, it rarely works well to slap the punchline on the face of the joke, especially on an old joke. The overriding presence of the carpeting in Beachley's work, with its unresolved edging, demands too much focus and not enough nuance.

Beachley is young, articulate and talented. Underneath the protective covering is something fine, and a phoenix that is waiting to

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