48 - 49




Babylonian Shopping List #2: Beauty Aids
Lauren Grossman

The elemental symbol here travels an artistic trajectory from meticulous graphic illustration to lively color-field abstraction. Bryant makes a stunning visual and scientific inventory of the natural and man-made world, finding shared elements in every circumstance – from sea water to medicines to weaponry. And with the use of simple, yet inherently meaningful symbols, she demonstrates the extraordinary order, balance and symmetry in the universe.

Approximately 3,200 years ago somebody made out a receipt for 9 sheep, 5 rams, 3 kid-goats and 3 she-goats, delivered on the 11th day of the month. This was hardly a hastily-dashed off document. Rather it was a weighty clay tablet, its message carried by carefully inscribed Linear B symbols, a script containing linguistic elements that connect it to the epic poetry of Homer. This early form of writing had little value for the production of prose but, although ambiguous, worked well enough for record keeping.

Thirty years ago, in a latter-day revival of this ancient form of record-keeping, Lauren Grossman created Babylonian Shopping List #2: Beauty Aids. Just as the ancient receipt-maker incised horizontal lines on which to list the animal inventory, Grossman, also working in clay, has recorded her list on lightly-ruled faux notebook paper. The imitation of a crumpled page recalls the plethora of checklists – those scraps of papers in purses and pockets or left behind in shopping bags or lost behind car seats – of pre-smart phone contemporary life. This kind of skillful illusion is highly appealing because of its unlikely combination of gravity-intensive clay used to interpret paper, a material that can be made airborne by the slightest puff of wind.


Language Möbius
Jana Sim

The beauty aids list is composed of blue stamped, incised and bas relief pictographs, a couple of which are undeniably beauty products – bobby pins and hair bows. But in the modern world, at least, some things may not quite qualify as beauty aids: a rooster, insects, a pig, alligators.

The viewer can only speculate about the meaning of Grossman’s symbols. They may be code for some arcane beauty rituals of yesteryear, such as the use of squashed insects rubbed on the mouth to produce ruby-red lips. Perhaps the odd presence of these creatures may relate to ancient beliefs in the power of animals and insects to, through magical intervention, alter the human visage for the better. Or maybe Grossman has taken a longer perspective, pointing out by her choice of curiosities that lists, seen from afar, appear as mere miscellanies that are beyond definitive decoding.
The commonplace list, in one form or another, has been an ordinary component of human life for millennia, tagging right along with more noteworthy examples of writing. To this day the list, and its various manifestations, continues to impose its special kind of order on how we live our everyday lives.

Learning a new language can seem like an endless loop of acquiring new words, studying them, memorizing them, forgetting them, re-learning them, mastering them and ultimately gaining the ability to think in the new language as you speak. In her work Jana Sim, born and raised in Korea, frequently addresses cultural differences and identity issues that come about as a result of living in a foreign country. In Language Möbius, Sim uses the Möbius strip as a symbol of her evolving conversational process: hearing English, thinking in Korean, mentally translating, then, at last, responding in English.

© 2014 Lauren Dudley. All Rights Reserved. Website by BradyArt