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Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

Wilson Center’s ‘Inhabit/Infest’ Filled With Wonderment

Art Review

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Is latex used solely for sterile surgical gloves? Artist Yevgeniya Kaganovich answers that question with an unequivocal “no” in a mesmerizing site-specific installation constructed from air, latex and glass that seamlessly integrates into the Ploch Art Gallery at Brookfield’s Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.

The exhibition “Inhabit/Infest” features huge latex fingers, appearing as inflated vertical tubes, on gloved hands that seem as though they will penetrate through the ceiling. Or perhaps the ivory latex is intended to resemble umbilical cords attached to the art center’s interior structure to symbolize a life force observed within the walls.

Viewers may walk under several sweeping diagonal latex strands attached to the gallery ceiling on one wall and the floor directly across the room. One might imagine crossing under muscles or ligaments, or an elastic body membrane—an imagined scientific journey. Large shapes like latex icicles or bulbous breasts are suspended from the ceiling, including the balcony, interspersed and intended to be seen from the lobby below—the inanimate and the living intersect when the arts center fills for performances.

Kaganovich’s installation conjures the idea of cellular material and microscopic organisms inhabiting the arts center, and raises questions about the architecture’s purpose if it is not being lived in. Perhaps it offers insight into Kaganovich’s mind-set when she used the word “infest” in the exhibit’s title. Multifarious microorganisms dwell inside and beneath a building’s walls.

Outside the inner sanctum of the walls, humans invest their lives in these buildings, essentially making them breathe. The complex thought process involved in creating the installation, meticulously executed and presented, offers another perspective in which to view the throbbing lifeblood underneath the skin—both architectural and human. Kaganovich is a UW-Milwaukee professor known for jewelry featuring pearls confined within latex circles; she creates similar conceptual metaphors in this installation. The exaggerated scale makes the idea resonate emphatically. Kaganovich’s nuanced and unconventional exhibition invites well-deserved wonderment.

(The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts presents “Inhabit/Infest” through Feb. 23. The center advises that those allergic to latex take necessary precautions when in the gallery.)