Facade was a solo exhibition installed at VisArts in Rockville, Maryland, on view January through February 2017. Read a review from Washington Post below.
The art of Amelia Toelke and Margaret Noble glitters and clangs, respectively. Although both are inspired by recent consumer culture, they have detached form from commercial function. That makes the objects in Toelke’s “Facade” and Noble’s “Resonating Objects” familiar yet strange.
Toelke’s wall-mounted pieces, at VisArts Common Ground Gallery, come in various degrees of shiny. Two triangles assembled from gleaming gold tags are geometric abstractions rooted in gift-shop junk. A large assemblage of reflective pink shapes is a vortex of kitsch, as mesmerizing as it is gaudy.
The Upstate New Yorker’s most profound gambit is a backlit horizontal oval, surrounded by lustrous metal starbursts. The visual vernacular promises a logo, perhaps for an automobile brand. But the central space is empty. Viewers, normally barraged by marketing messages, must fill in the blank themselves — or live with the void.
Noble, a San Diegan, was a dance-music DJ in Chicago while attending that city’s Art Institute. But her show, in VisArts’ Gibbs Street Gallery, owes as much to the player piano as to digital technology. Several interactive pieces employ punched tapes to produce tinkly tunes when fed, whether by hand crank or electric motor, through an antique-looking device. Other inventions contain brief samples that are triggered variously. One work contains nine small boxes whose sounds — a gurgling baby, buzzing insects, a whistling tea kettle — emerge when their lids are lifted.
The artist playfully juxtaposes new and old by placing cheap electronic gear within handcrafted wooden containers. Her taste for cataloguing can knowingly flirt with the absurd, as when she surrounds a dead cricket with 12 recordings of noises it made.
DJs may be stars on the club circuit, but the scene also has a democratic impulse: Dancer and beat are equal and inseparable. Noble brings that ideal to the gallery. Her primary goal is audience participation, whether that involves turning a crank or inserting one’s head into a box to prompt whooshing sounds. Noble’s work completes its circuit when the spectator is, literally or figuratively, inside it.