Art Review: Southern Art Cross-Pollinates in Conduit’s Wunderkammer

Golden animal skulls overlook mannequin sentinels, gaudily guarding shelves of translucent castings, minute paintings and a dry piece of fruit crushed by a vice.

Turning to wonder at idiosyncratic profusion, “Wunderkammer” displays roughly 150 art objects, organized and categorized as the specimens of an eclectic “Curiosity Cabinet.” Originating in the 16th century as a kind theatrical space for objects presented by royalty and scholars, the concept of wunderkammer encouraged the collecting and cataloging of the arcane in an effort to better embrace an ever-expanding world. In this multi-city collaborative exhibit, curator Phillip M. Jones (director of Institute 193, Lexington, Kentucky) selected art defying easy classification from several Kentucky artists and selected Conduit Gallery artists.

“The overarching goal of the exhibition was to create dialogue about the South as a region, emphasizing the need for collaboration and cross-pollination,” says Jones. The exhibit presents works ranging from the intellectual alchemy of SMU professor James Sullivan’s fake rocks to a Kentucky prison artist’s kitschy, dexterous and emotive toilet paper sculptures. Often directly incomparable, the works coerce a conversation between high and low art, offering the possibility of insight through proximity. Meticulously aligned on a series of shelves and cabinets, “Wunderkammer” provides each of the 150 objects space to exist, granting significance to each work. Alternately, the sheer quantity of objects demands a contextual viewing, relating each object to its cluster of neighbors, bleeding individual content into a collective summation of the curatorial vision.

“Wunderkammer” introduces an inclusive, open curatorial format that offers some poignant non-sequiturs as conversational entry points. Aesthetically the exhibit balances between etymology and excess, offering several pleasantly restrained pairings dense with compelling ambiguity.