Gresl art bristles with bales, skulls
by James Auer, Looking at Art
Gary John Gresl is a brave man--even, some might suggest, a foolhardy one.
He sets out to depict nothing less than the eternal balance between perceived
reality and the unconscious in his complex solo show, which runs through
Feb. 20 at the Tera Rouge Designer Galleria, 225 E. St. Paul St., Suite
Called "The Split Brain Series: Idea Evolution: 1983-1987," this flamboyant
exercise in self-exploration and revelation involves a profusion of objects
out of popular culture, set against paintings that vividly enunciate the
topic in two-dimensional form.
Hay bales, antelope skulls, teddy bears, army helmets, plastic Madonnas,
dimestore beads, cow horns, bits of broken mirror, even an elk hoof--all
are here, in a room as densely packed with ideas as it is with objects.
No doubt about it, Gresl, 44, is a restless, questing, endlessly energetic
Fascinated by the paraphernalia of mass production and its handmaiden, modern
war, he has intermixed installation art with more or less traditional pictures
in an attempt to trade off intelligence against instinct, the fragile integrity
of the ecology against the ravenous needs of the economy.
Underlying just about everything is the essential tension between the left
side of the human brain (practicality, efficiency) and the right (creativity,
vision), and this Gresl sees as a continuing conflict within the mind of
At the same time he appears to be addressing the endlessly arguable question
of tradition vs. innovation in art: painting and sculpture as opposed to
kitsch objects, the fine and the precious set against the pathetic rejects
of our disposable culture.
In the main, Gresl has done quite a good job of giving his basic ideas visible
His big central piece, "Measuring Mankind," using a milliner's head as the
fulcrum for a rotating wheel of opposing thoughts, borrows its form from
the symbolic thought of the American Indian.
As a presentation of the essential balance of life it is both intellectually
provocative and texturally interesting.
Effective, too, in quite a different way, are Gresl's bold visualizations
of our mental contradictions
and emotional frustrations, released periodically by psychoanalysis and
The problem here is that though Gresl's concerns are encyclopedic, his resources
aren't, and as a result, the impact of the show is diffuse and even, on
Neither totally a retrospective overview of his output to date nor entirely
a cohesive new work, it
ends up being neither--which is a shame, considering the quality of the
effort and thought involved.
Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 3 to 8 p.m.
Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. There is no admission.
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