“Gallery Walk,” The New Orleans Art Review

Gallery Walk


As one walks into Arthur Roger Gallery to view the latest show by Gene Koss, Levee Break and Silo, the mechanical churning and humming sound emanating from the front gallery immediately captures one’s interest. As an enormous metal and glass installation, measuring nearly eleven feet by sixteen feet, Silo spins steadily in place. The viewer is invited to hop onto this Richard Serra-esque monolith and go for a spin. A single curved wall comprised of colored glass blocks with various marking and shapes cut out of them, makes up part of the interior portion of this layered cylinder. This glass part connects to another curved metal wall, so that there are openings on either side. A second C-shaped metal wall wraps around the outside. The whole construction almost resembles the spinning arms of a hurricane, where the viewer is asked to stand in the center of this mechanical vortex. Once you safely climb aboard this sculptural merry-go-round, or active “art silo,” a life-size kaleidoscopic experience of color and light can he explored as the view constantly shifts, brightening and dimming as it spins into the light and hack into shadow again.

Levee Break, 2007

Koss singles out some of these glass blocks for display in the entranceway. The mostly bluish and greenish blocks contain cryptic textural elements and imprints. Some of the inscriptions are hurricane-shaped, while others have rectangular cutouts with stair shapes forming inside. These crude markings become almost primitive – a sort of “cave drawing” narrative that symbolically depicts some event of epic proportions. This same idea also carries through into Koss’s Disc Drawing Series, where each “disk” becomes more like a rounded tablet with nine of the ten containing two semi-parallel hash marks in a surface of transparent glass. The marks appear in blood-like shades of red and blue, giving the glass an injured look. One of the most interesting discs is the exception in this series. As an opaque fleshy pink with red, yellow and orange areas, this disk takes on a biomorphic form, becoming disturbingly beautiful.

The poetics and visual metaphors present in this show are truly thought provoking. At over twelve feet long, Levee Break I interjects itself into the clean open gallery space. A curved piece of steel sits inside a wooden beam, although it does not appear to go in deep enough to support its own weight – adding enormous visual tension. Shards of green glass pile up on a ridge along the convex side of the steel, while white shards amass near the bottom of the concave side. It is like a dangerous seesaw, where the entire system appears on the edge of bending too far and resulting in destruction. In Hanging Wheel, Levee Break III and Untitled, Koss continues to play with intense visuals of balance and space. Each piece appears to be frozen at the “tipping point” – capturing that moment in time between function and failure. Throughout the show, Koss eloquently captures the idea of the delicate monolith that can be interpreted on a variety of levels, from mechanical systems of protection and provision, to the condition of an entire city ravaged by forces both man-made and natural.