Reveiew: Jessica Drenk at Galleri Urbane

[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]

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“Aggregates,” Jessica Drenk’s show at Galleri Urbane, is intelligent and elegant. It parses the boundaries between natural and man-made things, including:  wood, paper, books, pencils and toothpicks. All of the raw materials she uses bear the stamp of machinery — and books, of course, carry additional weightiness. They’re the product of imagination, a Platonic notch beyond tree branches and such.

Two works, Cerebral Mapping and Bibliophylum, Installation 4 are constructed of books immersed in wax and solidified. Pieces of verbiage are then cut in strips or scooped out with a carving tool. These pieces reenact the drama of things removed from their native context. For instance, plant materials are transformed into paper, which is then impressed with meaning via printing — and Drenk subsequently tampers with the entire concoction by deconstructing it.

Cerebral Mapping sprawls across a gallery wall in ways that are reminiscent of dendrites and biological messiness. We’re left with a strident reminder that everything we know, whether it’s from books or strolls in nature, becomes fodder for a stellar brand of transmogrification. In other words, Shakespeare as well as time spent gawking at mighty redwoods ultimately becomes mysterious, shimmering magic in our noggins — and that bit of alchemical deliciousness invokes ongoing amazement.

Drenk’s “Formation pencils” is fun. It’s a miniature pile of twin caverns, places to imaginatively play. She cuts and shapes them in ways that make us long to experience the pleasure of tactile life. Ms. Drenk’s entire show is a splendid romp in “thing-ness” and a cheering antidote to our overly digitized environment.

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