Archive for September, 2008

Walking Books, Stan Shellabarger. On view at Western Exhibitions through October 15, 2008

September 7, 2008

The problem with repeating yourself is that you end up doing it more than once. Stan Shellabarger’s performance process is inescapably repetitive: he walks over and over a thing until he has left a mark on it, whether from charcoal, sandpaper, or another medium he has attached to his body. This emphasis on personal mark-making recalls 1960s phenomenological explorations from body to video art.

Shellabarger’s current exhibition heralds the relocation of Western Exhibitions in the 119 North Peoria Street building, just down the hall from Three Walls and Tony Wight. (A quick note on the new space: it’s just two rooms, and barely larger than my two-bedroom apartment, but it benefits from the quirky coziness that is the pastel pink information desk.)  The books and other papers document the artist’s obsessive shuffling over surfaces in order to create rubbings. The resulting materials are almost too beautiful, too austerely decorated.

Even though the artist’s process at one level appears to be a phenomenological exploration of how one relates to the outside world through an artistic medium, the result of his performance belies this literal explanation. What these works do is problematize  the reconciliation of the document as a product of Shellabarger’s specific experience with these materials because the document has no mark specific to his presence—the marks could have been made with a graphite pencil in hand, not graphite attached to his shoes.