Whistle While You Work

Alison O’Daniel takes her commitment to collaboration seriously. In her recent work she asked three different composers to make her a piece of music based on a single image. The songs they wrote played on repeat in her studio as she prepared sculptures for her upcoming show. She found themes and moments of synchronicity between the songs, all of which inspired her whimsical sculptures, up now at Samuel Freeman Gallery in Culver City, Los Angeles through August 18th.

Alison O'Daniel, Samuel Freeman Gallery

Alison O’Daniel, Bookshelf, 2013. Paper, plaster, rubber, chain, geranium, triangle strikers, 74.75 x 10.25 x 32in.

The minute I walked into the gallery space I felt at home. It might have been the shoe stuck to the ceiling of the entry way or the welcome arms of an overflowing house plant stationed on what might have been a living room shelf (if we were not in a gallery, that is). There was also rug slung over top the left hand wall, as if the room had been turned upside down into a kind of wonderland.

In the middle stood a few wire sculptures slowly shifting as people passed, but stabilized by light colored wooden stands that were as much a part of the figure as the wire objects themselves. Clinging to the walls were some ribbon shaped scraps, painted over and clustered together in four clumps, like little monsters poised to unfurl at at midnight. All and all the space was delightful view into a playful mind.

Henry, another gallery goer, said that he sensed a musicality in her work. As we spoke, we watched as a set of painted triangle frames hanging from the ceiling rocked gently inside one another. The shadow of the wood on the wall was the backdrop to another black shoe (the partner from the one at the entryway?) that hung down from the center of the mobile with its laces laying over the side. I could almost hear the way the frames wanted to chime together if they could touch; as if each colored triangle would leave behind a different note ringing in the air.

Alison O'Daniel, Samuel Freeman Gallery

Alison O’Daniel, Kaleidoscopic Window, 2013. Shoe, wood, chain, paint, dimensions variable

It turns out that the form was intended to conjure up the idea of sound. Alongside the plant, and next set of black and white paper globs in solid manilla folder shapes, was a set of small silver bars, ridged on one end, and lined up one after the other. Those are for dinging the triangles, Henry told me, since he had just had a conversation with Allison about her metal mobile that hung in the atrium.

With the thin rods in hand we ventured out, past a few pieces of square wood and thin ornate chain hung on the walls, and walked toward the final piece. There we clanged on the sculpture made of metal triangles like you might remember doing in middle school choir. Sure enough a few released a bright silvery thin sound that pierced the air and then vanished almost as fast as it arrived.

Alison O'Daniel, Samuel Freeman Gallery

Alison O’Daniel, This Half of the Room is Listening, 2013. Plaster, musical triangles, tuning forks, cactus and succulents, thread, hardware, dimensions variable

But why can’t we hear the music that Allison used when she made these sculptures, I asked Henry, as we stood next to a wooden loop hanging low to the ground, like a tire swing, only too delicate to sit on and also adorned with a light silver chain around the middle. What if the music is clunky or dark or something other than what we might imagine would inspire such fun-loving designs?

We might make the music available at the desk once the opening is over, Allison said, when we got a moment to chat with her over by the bar. She told us then about how she makes art with people who are interested in transforming disability and that the musicians themselves identified as deaf composers. If fact, she is a part of growing community of deaf artists who consider the medium of sound to be central to what they make. How much more interesting, then, might it have been to be able to listen to the musical work alongside hers.

Alison O’Daniel, Quasi-Closed CaptionsSamuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles through August 18, 2013

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by Emily Kramer
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