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Art review: Alexis Mackenzie at POVevolving

April 2, 2010 |  8:00 pm
400.Light_Moves_On_The_Water  The roots of Alexis Mackenzie's work stretch back to manuscript illumination of the middle ages, in which initial letters were often formed of human figures and architectural elements. Filter that reverential practice through a vaguely Romantic poetic sensibility, and you'll end up with Mackenzie's word collages– lovely, unsettling things made with impeccable finesse.

In most of the 15 works on paper at POVevolving, Mackenzie has spelled out a single word or phrase in letters comprised of carefully clipped images from old books. Her sources seem to be primarily illustrated texts on botany and biology. Most of the letters consist of images of stems, tendrils, blossoms or bones, delicately excised and seamlessly joined. The words are legible, with a little effort, but looking at and not just reading the pictured phrases carries its own reward. Script sprawls across one page like a meandering branch; on another, letters sprout from the ends of skeletal finger bones.

400.No_Big_Deal  The San Francisco-based artist's choice of words varies from straightforward ("Dawn," "Dusk") to coy ("This Isn't What It Looks Like," "No Big Deal") and dreamy ("Slow Dance," "Light Moves on the Water"). More overtly meaningful is her choice of traditional symbols of mortality (the skull) and transient beauty (flowers). Eggs, emblems of new life, occasionally rest at the base of a stem or spine. Part still life, part verbal landscape, Mackenzie's collages strike a fine balance between the delectable and the grave.

–Leah Ollman

POVevolving Gallery, 939 Chung King Road, (310) 594-3036, through Thursday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Images: Light Moves on the Water (top) and No Big Deal. Courtesy of POVevolving.