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Jamaica Center’s new exhibit anything but ordinary

"Artexts," a new exhibit at the Jamaica Center for Arts and learning, features 23 artists who use text - at points it seems like a kind of automatic writing- and symbols in their work.

The first work as you come in, and you might miss it, is Andrade Ayoung's "Night of the World" (2001). A bag hangs from a mannequin's hand on the wall. Inside is a novel, a surgical mask and a few other things that will be of no use during the apocalypse. You can buy it for $15.00.

Then you come to Victor Ekpuk's "Nuptial Dance" (1998), "Dream II" (2000) Another Fischerman's "Story" (1997) and "Fish for Breakfast" (1998), all of them acrylic on board. In the first work two supple stick figures, a man and a woman - you can tell the woman because she has longer hair and the man because he has a .. uh... protuberance - dance beneath a blue crescent moon against a background of hieroglyphics that remind one of the signs of the planets and the zodiac. In the second work another male stick figure seems to descend from another blue symbol vaguely like the sign for Pisces. The third and fourth works are tondos, round board paintings, and are also filled with fish symbolism.

Beth Campbell's hilarious "My Potential Future Based on Present Circumstances" (2001) is brilliantly simple. It's a large sheet of white paper upon which the artist has penciled in an upward flowing cladogram of what might happen from the initial event written at the very bottom of the page. The time lines, which remind one of ripples in a fast stream with the events like stones in the current, end up with the artist experiencing everything from fame and fortune, to jail, to a severed finger, to a coma.

Yumi Tohyama's work is just delicious. His small paintings, full of clean, quirky symbols and tiny words, are so amazingly fine you could write teeny tiny words with it, and this is what Tohyama does.. His Virtual Reality Translation Schizophrenia (2000), a work of stick ink on paper, is full of symbols that are almost Japanese, almost Sanskrit, almost Arabic and are juxtaposed with tiny English words that seem to emerge, like bubbles, out of the stew of all that symbolism. The effect is lovely and mesmerizing.

Nancy Friedeman, whose work is also on display at the Queens Museum, is represented by Sequence (1999) and Vessel (2000), both made with red marker on sheets of mylar. She employs whorls of stream of consciousness words. But in both works one sheet of mylar is hung on top of the other, and so the bottom sheet is seen but hazily through the top one. The writer had to separate them and take a peek at the bottom sheet to really see what was written on it. And just as she was doing that she looked down and saw something on the floor - it was an angel made out of masking tape with words written on it. At the bottom was written, "Become Your Dream."

Mark Lombardi's works, Adnan Kashoggi and the Triad Establishment (1996) and BNL, Reagan, Bush, Thatcher and the Arming of Iraq (1996) show, also in a series of complex time lines how one act leads to another, but of course it's far more nefarious. Some of Lombardi's lines are broken, as if the acts they represent were meant to be clandestine.

In Seong Chun's "Untitled" (Inward, Outward Intersected 132) (2000) we have text on crocheted paper, thread and rubber, incredibly tiny writing.

Jesse Pasca's "A Single Breath" (2001) is symbolic of just that. The ink-on-paper work is a row of squares which start small, grow into a large center square, and then diminish, just as a breath does. And since one can say a great deal in one breath, the squares are made up of thousands of minuscule words.

Terry Boddie's multimedia work concerns his family, but not in a strictly linear way. The first work, "Ascent" (2000) deals with the passing of his mother and in it he's blended West African writing, an ancestor figure, and his mother's photo to illustrate her transition. The leaf in the picture, Boddie told the writer, was added because the leaf, though separate from the tree, carries all of the tree's DNA, as we carry the DNA of our own ancestors.

Sung-Ho Choi's "Rhythm" (2000) was the most fun of the exhibits. Made out of 66 sheets of Xerox paper, it looks, from a distance, like a group of colored bar charts recording the economy or a patient's vital signs. But when you come closer you find out, to your delight, that they're 66 rejection letters arranged on their sides.

The bold brushstrokes of Ayelet Zohar's Palimpsests paintings (2000) recall Chinese Qing dynasty paintings, but they're also integrated with what seems like Hebrew writing, children's footprints and handprints (echoes of The Blair Witch Project?) and barely glimpsed endorsements for Coca Cola in English as if the crass modern world is impinging, inevitably, on old forms and traditions.

Other three-dimensional works are under glass and include Mark Katzman and Susan Kress's "iNoN" (c. 1990), Annette Senneby and Zahra Partovi's "On the Art of Painting," with text by Rumi (1989), Johanna Drucker's "The Word Made Flesh" (c. 1996), and Jenny Holzer's "Any Surplus is Immoral" (1991).

The first is a work made like a Torah scroll, complete with quasi Biblical sayings: "I saw a golden bridge ascending to the stars," and paintings of opened hands with symbols on the palms. The second is a book opened to pages traversed by a ragged line with strange writing on the lower left hand corner of the left page - everything else is blank. The third work is another book full of strange letters, and the fourth is a bunch of wooden stamps with sayings carved on them like "Lack of Charisma Can Be Fatal." An ink pad is provided.

Artexts will be at the JCAL, 161-04 Jamaica Avenue, through June 16. Take the J or the E train to the last stop, or a bunch of buses to the Archer Avenue/Parsons Boulevard stop. Don't drive because you won't find a parking space.

But whatever you do, make sure you go!

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