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Maeghan Reid @ Chung King Project

December 3, 2008 | 12:30 pm

Wanderer_2007_2 Maeghan Reid’s solo debut at Chung King Project — one of the strongest in recent memory — revolves around the figure of the drifter, the gypsy, the nomad or the outsider. Solitary silhouettes roam her collages with walking sticks in hand and bags slung over their shoulders. Small groups gather in makeshift camps; buildings loom in vast isolation, on the peaks of hills or surrounded by plains. There is a prevailing sense of both alienation and freedom, exclusion and liberation.

This spirit is less palpable in the imagery, however, than in the materials themselves, which look as though they could have been gathered by the very characters Reid is assembling. Old photographs, discarded bits of linoleum and cardboard, toothpicks, strips of satin, velvet, corduroy and upholstery — all are fragments drawn from the world at large, once the fabric of another picture, another story. Every surface exudes a sense of history.

Collage is a widely practiced and seldom dazzling genre, but Reid approaches it with a rare degree of concentration and sensitivity, assembling and manipulating her materials with the same care that she shows in choosing them. The works range from letter-size to poster-size, and Reid is equally adept at either end of the scale.

The smaller compositions are tight, intimate and jewel-like; the larger, assuredly expansive and monumental. No inch of surface area is squandered or overlooked. The fastidiousness with which Reid treats these once discarded materials invests them with a kind of opulence that seems an extension of her reverence for her subjects. Whether by choice or necessity, her vagabonds have set about living life by their own systems of value.

In Friday's paper, look for reviews of David McDonald, Annie Wharton and Jason David at Jail Gallery; Lillian Bassman at Peter Fetterman; and Peter Sudar at Mihai Nicodim.

-- Holly Myers

Photo: "Wanderer," 2007. Credit: Chung King Project.

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