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Review Tue Apr 24 2012
Why make ceramic vases when you can construct realistic model cities instead and methodically destroy them? After all, if you've ever turned clay on a wheel, you know it really just wants to slump back into the lump from whence it came. In Natural Disaster, Allison Ruttan embraces ceramic's uncooperative nature, building intricate structures and craftily deconstructing them so that they look just like tiny versions of the bombsites we see on the news. Or, for a Chicagoan, like Cabrini Green looked a couple years ago. Despite the title of the show, Ruttan urges viewers to keep in mind that these are not accidents of nature but man made acts of destruction.
Ruttan has focused her practice on violence and devastation for some time now - an earlier project was based on Jane Goodall's study of a group of chimpanzees who had once lived together peacefully when they suddenly split off into two groups and waged civil war with one another. This practice, which may seem baffling from an outside perspective, is quite commonplace when considered in a human context. We don't get along very well. We build complex, amazing things only to end up destroying them later. Magnificent buildings and other great feats of human engineering are doomed to fall into atrophy sooner or later, either from negligence or more sinister means.
These impressively detailed, realistic constructions have been cleverly installed in the gallery on panels of burnt plywood strewn across wooden sawhorses and stacks of cinderblocks, stuffed with wadded up grocery bags. There are about a dozen ceramic structures, mostly multi-level buildings, with a few craters, as well, to round out the post-war landscape. Ruttan's website explains that the scale and material choices for these works were inspired by funerary models from the Han Dynasty, but they are not precious objects to be buried with the dead. Rather, they are homages to the dead and examinations into the destructive, irrational aspects of human nature.
Natural Disaster will be up through May 13 at ADDS DONNA.