VisArts presents three new exhibitions. Sharon Koelblinger’s Maybe the Moon Doesn’t Want Us, Sue Wrbican’s This Iridescent Era, and Chris Combs’ Lossiness open Friday, September 3.
VisArts galleries are open Monday-Friday, 12pm to 4pm
Sharon Koelblinger: Maybe the Moon Doesn’t Want Us
Common Ground Gallery
September 3-October 17
In the wake of the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, Sharon Koelblinger has been reconsidering her relationship to the iconic photos of the event.
Koelblinger’s grandfather worked as a contractor for NASA during the Apollo program. He collected photographs and 8mm film of the projects he contributed to, but gaps in her memory of his professional narrative surfaced after his death. This gap is where Koelblinger’s work emerges.
The photographs in this exhibition express memories fraught with omissions, architecture that keeps neighbors distant, and fragments caught in a passing glance. In sculptural frames, Koelblinger uses the same optically precise mirror that enables telescopes to peer deep into space to draw the viewer’s attention from the photograph to their own reflection.
About the Artist
Koelblinger works in photography and sculpture to bring awareness to our own perceptual limitations. She has an MFA in Photography from the Tyler School of Art and a BFA in sculpture from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Sue Wrbican: This Iridescent Era featuring Claire McConaughy and Matt Wrbican with Phil Rostek and James Nelson
September 3-October 17
Gibbs Street Gallery
Sue Wrbican’s This Iridescent Era is an iteration of The Iridescent Yonder, which was exhibited during the summer of 2021 at Riverviews Art Space in Lynchburg, Va. Wrbican created new works to accompany this reconfiguration for VisArts.
In 1990, Wrbican’s brother, Matt Wrbican, created Oil Tanker, a mixed-media relief work composed of consumer grade plastic objects. Phil Rostek painted the sea with tar and James Nelson, the sky. The work was part of their collaborative exhibition, The Labyrinth, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Their critique of oil, war, capitalism, consumerism, and the environment is still relevant today.
In 2019, Matt passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. Six weeks later, Wrbican’s mother, Annabell, died. To help process her compounded grief, Wrbican made small sculptures from shipping detritus and shredded medical bills.
During the Covid-19 winter of 2021, Wrbican cast hundreds of fish-like forms in her kitchen with handmade paper that contained bits of her mother’s sensitive information. Working in this quiet, repetitive, meditative process opened more possibilities. She then formed clay fish to be photographed as if they were swimming. Thinking of her brother, his work, and his now and forever absence, Wrbican imagined the fish turning into a comet.
Expressly for this exhibition, Claire McConaughy, Matt’s lifelong friend, created Fragile Rainbow in response to Oil Tanker; the two works face each other and continue the conversation.
About the Artist
Sue Wrbican lives and works in the Washington, DC metro area. In the fall of 2017, Wrbican presented her extensive artistic exploration into the work of Kay Sage at the Greater Reston Art Center in Va. In 2015, her site-specific sculpture, The Eventual Outcome of an Instant, was constructed at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, NY. Her video, Back Roof, is part of Miranda July’s Joanie 4 Jackie Archive at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. In 2014, she presented her installation and lecture, Continue the Temporary and It Becomes Forever, at the Zizek Studies conference at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning.
Wrbican has held residencies at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Fla., the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, Calif., The Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and the STUD Residency in Catlett, Va. She’s a founding member of the Floating Lab Collective, whose projects have been exhibited in venues such as ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany and the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York City. In 2008, Wrbican worked with Mary Carothers on The Frozen Car, a project addressing gas consumption and the environment.
Wrbican’s studio is in the Monroe Street ArtsWalk in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. She received an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and teaches at the School of Art at George Mason University.
Chris Combs: Lossiness
September 3–October 17
According to Chris Combs, “Spot a few rabbits in a row and you’ve got yourself an omen, a philosophy, or a phobia. Humans are pattern-matching beasts.” He continues, “Well, ‘matching’ isn’t a strong enough word. We are pattern-forging creatures: pattern smashers, pattern steamrollers, nuclear atom-crushing pattern rippers, imposing hallucinatory structures on a soup of utterly uncorrelatable flotsam. Any stray sparks in the void are eligible for greater meaning; before long, we’ve crashed together Vegas in the night.”
Combs believes you could describe a lot of contemporary life in this way: good-intentioned folks skimming the garbage patch and willing their scoopfuls to become perfect pearls. Or is he just stringing together his own pattern?
In Lossiness, Combs aims to explore the edges of perceptibility. Through selective destruction, warping and obscuring, he hopes to guide his viewers through their own pattern-matching hardware. Lossiness is a compression technique. As Combs notes, “We don’t really need every detail of every picture, right? Toss out some lesser-noticed pixels: you’ve got a JPEG. Do this 60 times a second, that’s YouTube. And we’re happy to patch in the gaps, building our own mini-deepfakes, tickling 90% of the same neurons because we didn’t have quite enough resources for the real thing. No matter—the pattern came through.”
About the Artist
Through handmade and custom-fabricated hardware, software, and enclosures, Chris Combs’ electronic sculptures respond to themes of surveillance, control, algorithmic bias – and the viewer – using facial recognition and motion sensing. He works with a wide range of practices to create circuit boards, software, and enclosures for his sculptures, which both embrace and question technology.
Combs’ first solo exhibition, Judging Me Judging You at the D.C. Arts Center’s Nano Gallery, explored themes of surveillance and control. His work, Markov Radio, was also included in a one-day Sound Scene event at the Hirshhorn Museum. Combs was a photo editor for National Geographic for five years and has photographed Autism, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and traffic cones. He’s a graduate of the Corcoran College of Art + Design.
VisArts is located at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD.