Las Gravitas at ODETTA

Photos by Sharilyn Neidhardt, unless otherwise indicated
A show of swirling color and geometry finds ways to discuss complicated issues of violence and social collapse.

What drew me to ODETTA on a very chilly Saturday were the colorful, pagoda-like structures in the main space. Human-scale structures that echo lanterns or birdcages are covered in awkward spiky garlands of colored plastic tubes. The festive air created by the riot of bright color seems fun at first, and it’s only on second inspection that a viewer realizes the color is coming from spent shotgun shells.

Margaret Roleke, ‘pop pop’ (installation view) spent shot gun shells, wire, zipties, steel boxes. 2 boxes each approx. 9’h x 5’w x 5’d

I was lucky enough to speak personally with artist Margaret Roleke, who resides in Connecticut, not far from the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ms Roleke calls herself an activist artist and donates a percentage of proceeds from her sales to organizations that promote gun control. I was riveted by Roleke’s piece pop pop. I’ve fired a shotgun and recall that the kickback of the gun butt against my shoulder left a deep bruise. With that in mind, while encountering Roleke’s sculpture, I found myself calculating how much firepower was represented by the shots that had been fired from these now-empty shells. Though reduced to decoration, the aggression and violence embodied by the shells echo through the gallery.

Margaret Roleke, ‘pop pop’ (detail)
Margaret Roleke with her piece ‘pop pop’ at ODETTA

Fanning away the gunsmoke from the shotgun blasts I had imagined, beautifully flayed polygons of bright canvas seemed to float upwards on the surrounding walls. Yvette Cohen’s works Thin Air and Per Aspera Ad Astra allude directly to a higher realm – the latter promising a ladder to the heavens.  The shapes play with three dimensions while staying stubbornly two-dimensional, adding a welcome levity to contrast the forcefulness of Roleke’s installation.

Yvette Cohen ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ Oil, wood, dowels,shaped canvas
Yvette Cohen, Thin Air 2_3, 2011, Oil,wood dowels,shaped canvas, each painting approximately 36 x 72 inches, image courtesy ODETTA Gallery

Around the corner from the main space, another set of work flirts with both decorative and destructive impulses. Lydia Viscardi’s medium-sized pieces are swirling with primitive-looking decorative carvings in geometric patterns. The light-colored filigree nearly conceals the images of crashed cars and twisted metal beneath. Viscardi salvages images used in trial documentation and removes the specificity of the actual trauma caused by a particular automobile accident. Out of context, the viewer is free to admire the spontaneous beauty of the crumpled metal.

Lydia Viscardi, installation view
Lydia Viscardi ‘Let Go and Let Be’ found digital photography, colored pencil, carving, enamel paint, 21.5×33 inches, image courtesy ODETTA Gallery

By inviting us to admire these artifacts of violence, both Roleke’s and Viscardi’s works call attention to the fetishization of force in society. As political tensions overheat and social contracts are blown threadbare, what a pleasure to contemplate such vital topics at a safe distance, shot through with levity and beauty.


Las Gravitas

Through December 16, 2018
Artist’s Talk: Sunday, December 16, 4-5:30 pm


 Sharilyn Neidhardt is a Brooklyn-based visual artist. She is a co-founder of the artists’ community trans-cen-der and is an assistant curator at Friday Studio Gallery. She’s an avid cyclist, loves midnight movies, and speaks only a little German. Her first solo show ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ opened Sept 7 at Art During the Occupation in Brooklyn. More at