reviews > Austin, TX

7/12/09 2:37 PM

Sometimes scale does curious and exciting things. An abstract rendering of wood, laminate, stone, and metal, arranged at the scale of a ladies’ brooch, does little for me, reminding me only of the 1980s movie “Ruthless People,” and the then-fabulous furnishings by the vanguard Italian design firm Memphis that filled the home of the main characters, played by Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. But blown up to another scale entirely, both the design and its materials become something else entirely, something surprising and even uncanny. Such is the case with “Geo-Jewel,” a medium-size wall relief by Chris Dial, one of five works in her “Jewel Box Series,” all of them “translated,” to borrow the artist’s words, from jewelry pins. Measuring 18 ½ x 17 x 6 inches, the sculpture turns glossy white laminate, bane of kitchen cabinets everywhere, into a gleaming surface against which a series of other equally familiar materials can play at charming transformation. Sheets of copper-colored metal, hammered in a flagstone pattern, become sunburst and trippy geometric surface at once. And a pile of pearly, pastel stones, the kind found at the base of certain fancy floral arrangements, shed their easy decorativeness for something evocative at once of candy and jewels. The only thing left, it seems, is to find the right wall on which to hang this peculiar piece—one blank and staid enough, hopefully, to let it be as strange as it wants to be.

—Lori Waxman