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Thursday, July 20, 2017 12:10 am

Ecstatic and blue

DEMO Project breaks ground

From “Blue at the Edges,” by Melissa Pokorny currently on display at DEMO Project.
Since launching in the autumn of 2013, DEMO Project – the alternative art gallery located on the campus of the Springfield Art Association – has steadily developed a reputation regionally and nationally as a unique space for contemporary work, attracting artists working in a variety of approaches ranging from painting to sculpture to video to installation to performance, sometimes combining multiple disciplines into a single exhibition. Recently, DEMO has been hosting a series of spoken word events featuring poets and other writers performing work inspired by, and sometimes interactive with, the work on display. Despite all of this activity over the past four years, the gallery remains largely under the radar, with a growing reputation outside of Springfield which belies its low profile here.

The two most recent concurrent solo exhibitions at DEMO (one in the main gallery, the other in a smaller space in the rear) opened on July 14 and are among the gallery’s most distinctive.

Kristin Abhalter Smith is the founder of the Roman Susan art space in Chicago and her exhibition, “EKSTASIS,” in the back space, probably breaks more ground than any other DEMO exhibit in memory – literally, as some of the pieces in her self-described “site-responsive project” are displayed in patches of dirt dug into the gallery’s back lawn. There’s also a towering, inflatable “Air Dancer,” (both like and unlike the ones seen outside of car dealerships everywhere) with five different costume options, each representing a different characteristic, including “Resilience,” “Fury,” “Peace” and, somehow, “Butter.”

Aside from the Air Dancer, the dominant image of “EKSTASIS” consists in variations on the idea of a pyramid, including a large wooden one in the yard and two vinyl versions underneath the back porch. Inside the gallery, viewers encounter “Meditation: Sound Spirit,” featuring a mannequin’s hand holding a single chord on an electronic keyboard, appropriately spooky accompaniment for the other “meditations” on display.

“Blue at the Edges” in the main gallery, showcases work from Champaign-Urbana-based artist Melissa Pokorny. True to its title, Pokorny’s work has a lot of blue on display, and it manages to take the space – which was once the living quarters of the caretaker for Edwards Place – and give it the feel of a living space, if a somewhat alien one. “These blue places provide a reverie of distance and solitude, and stand in stark contrast to the lingering traces of domesticity and containment,” according to Pokorny’s artist statement.

DEMO Project is located at 732 N. Fourth Street on the Springfield Art Association campus. Other than for special events, it is open on Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. or by appointment. For inquiries, please email demoprojectspace@gmail.com or visit demoprojectspace.com

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.


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