Pincus, Robert, "The Struggle to Make Sense of A to Z", San Diego Union-Tribune, January 28, 1993 section Night and Day, p 8
THE STRUGGLE TO MAKE SENSE OF A to Z Sculptors Create a World Without Meaning
by Robert L. Pincus
Behind every convincing example of installation art is an image or form that is extravagant, obsessive or both. Sculptors Lynne Hendrick and Richard Keely, in their first collaborative exhibition, demonstrate a keen understanding of that concept of the genre, and the evidence is at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla. Their explicit subject is the mental disorder called aphasia. It is, as their accompanying statement says, "total or partial loss of the ability to use or understand words".
Though aphasia may sound like a concept resistant to art, Hendrick and Keely have forged compelling correlations of this form of psychic disorientation in "Too Thick to Chew/The Aphasic Works". The most extensive one takes the form of letters, from A to Z - scores of them. They line the walls and window bays of the venerable library, spilling out onto the floor and reading tables. They seem to dog visitors, as they pass from room to room. These alphabet shelves become an obsessive and extravagant image of language reduced to a jumble of disconnected symbols. And each letter was made by Hendrick, adding another layer of obsessiveness to the project.
Perhaps this sculptural embodiment of aphasia could have made its point in any setting. In a library, however, it takes on additional layers of meaning, as the artists readily acknowledge. This display of letters is an affront to the very concept of a library, which aspires to give order to the vast, disorderly production of culture.
So are two glass cases with stained sides, situated in the middle of one room. A tower of mildewing books fill one vitrine; a web of microfilm occupies a companion case. Their fogged surfaces, along with the props they house, neatly evoke the barrier between the aphasic and language.
A music and arts library is even more to the point here than generational libraries would be. For people with aphasia have no problem appreciating music or art. The clinical concept of aphasia then serves as a springboard for Hendrick and Keely. The disorder becomes a metaphor for society's obstacles to communication. These artists aren't the first or last to observe that the sheer amount of information our society creates is troubling. It threatens to overwhelm any attempts to catalog so much data. Even when the archive limits its scope, as the Athenaeum does, the problem remains.
Could our culture reach a time when there is so much art and music being produced that we'll be at a loss to make much sense of it? Hendrick's and Keely's shelves of letters and glass boxes filled with rotting books and jumbled microfilm provoke us to imagine this gloomy scenario. Their carefully orchestrated props articulate another notion: that the intimate experience of art, in whatever medium, is either difficult or impossible to capture in criticism or scholarly writing.
How true. But that doesn't mean criticism, art history and musicology don't have their many uses. This pair of artists wouldn't side with the Italian Futurists of early-20th-century vintage, who though avant-gardists should burn down libraries and museums. "We appreciate and recognize the importance of a music and arts library," Hendrick and Keely write, "but we also find an irony in the attempt to try and record and categorize these art forms." There is no better place for them to convey this dual mind-set than in a repository of music and arts.
And one suspects Hendrick and Keely feel a little bit like aphasics themselves working among all shelves and books and periodicals about art. Their reaction is to make letters into little sculptures and make books into the stuff of art.
Robert Pincus, art critic, San Diego Union Tribune