Insomnia Machine, Webb's recent show at Howard House, demonstrates all of the above. That he's located his current work in that terrible country, insomnia, further prods at sculpture's point of origin, as well as its destination. Many geniuses find their best work in hours of sleeplessness, when the mind flutters and bends and seeks solutions to an improbable situation. Webb's solution is to keep poking at the twisting folds of our brains. KATIE J. KURTZ
Much of Jenny Heishman 's sculpture has the air of a game: an inner tube with multicolored beach-ball stripes that spins around a pole; a lumpy halo that you gather under in the manner of a football huddle; a set of heavy hanging plastic sheets, annotated with colorful stickers, that you very nearly have to swim through. Games are an aspect of interaction that has much in common with art: a negotiation between what's offered, what's needed from the viewer, and how the two connect. But this playfulness doesn't mean that Heishman's sculpture doesn't rise to the magnificent, as with a clear undulating piece of Mylar with orange edges, looking exactly like a section of Elizabethan neck ruff, completely blocking, in its 2001 installation, a doorway--although you could see its demure backside from another room in the gallery.
The humor and interactive element in Heishman's work are gentle and suggestive--not the bludgeoning, slightly mean sort that art often fosters, but something that leads you amiably toward ideas that are rather devastating, such as how space is divided by things and how this affects us on levels we don't immediately perceive. EMILY HALL
In Sami Ben Larbi' s work there aren't necessarily viewers, only participants. He's most interested in how people individually experience art, how their expectations inform their reactions, and what happens when sensory options are limited. Although this concept isn't new, Ben Larbi takes the mediated experience one step further by limiting the medium in which he creates these situations to latex.
Ben Larbi's Un de r pres s ure (a 2001 exhibition at Sand Point) debuted his line of latex clothing. Heavy, gigantic suits loaded down and blinded the participant; LCD screens mounted inside the helmet provided the only way to see, and a stiff piece of plastic served as the air hole. On a recent studio visit, I stood in one of his more recent (and lighter) inflatables feeling like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; I couldn't help but ask if he was into sadomasochism. He'd obviously been asked this before but was still discomfited by the question. He shook his head, smiled ruefully, and said, "It's a lot about what your reaction is to it." I grew uncomfortable, as if his art had exposed some hidden desire of mine. His point. Exactly. KATIE J. KURTZ
Jesse Paul Miller 's work is often a layered response to the idea of information, as in a 2000 show that featured all manner of outdated technology performing in new, more abstract roles. There were records cast in resin that contained floating bits of cassette tape on which the music from the album had been taped--all the information there, in the grooves, in the embedded tape, inaccessible but differently useful.
Miller often sees the possibility of the castoff, especially the possibility that an object's true use, its true place, may fit inside a philosophical or scientific system that we haven't yet decoded, and you got the feeling that if you could just pierce the code, you might find something actually worth knowing. Sound is an important element; much of Miller's current work consists of field recordings collected and then manipulated (such as Discovery Channel-style bird recordings overlaid with scratchy LP sounds, so that you are never allowed to lose yourself in the sentimental white noise of nature). In Miller's hands, such things feel like small subversive gestures shot back at linear time, at development, at the smug certainty of knowledge. EMILY HALL