Home maintenance: Lively envisions the future
You may not know what “albedo” means, but, trust me, you’ve experienced it big time in the past week. Albedo is the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space from the earth’s surface, and it’s essential to planetary health. The best promoter of albedo? Snow with an underlying layer of ice (see, it’s good for something!), which is why the polar icecaps’ melting is such a threat.
Scientists offer myriad solutions for combating the planet’s diminishing albedo, from painting roofs white to launching mirrored satellites to generating cloud cover. Such visually intriguing ideas provide the impetus for artist Matthew Lively’s exhibition, “Odebla,” currently on view in Piedmont Virginia Community College’s North Gallery.
Collaborating with sculptor David Culpepper, Lively imagines the domestic consequences for a world where scientific intervention is necessary to maintain life. “Odebla” includes several paintings and small sculptures, but its heart is a floor-to-ceiling installation, “Satellite,” that extends across a 22-foot length of wall.
“Satellite” offers a bird’s eye– or rather a satellite’s eye– view of a modern subdivision, with several key differences. Clustered around gracefully arcing cul-de-sacs drawn in graphite, 72 nearly identical miniature houses are painted a uniform white and interspersed with 72 latticed brown “Radio Derrick” towers. The aerial perspective emphasizes the piece’s poetic rhythm and flow, and the shadows cast– particularly by the derricks– create an additional visual component.
The two-story houses in “Satellite” are similar to the houses that provide the focus for several of Lively’s oil paintings. In each case, he depicts mechanisms, such as a satellite tethered to a roof or an accordion-like ventilation pipe with red bellows, attached to cartoon-like homes, which otherwise are emblematic of story-book happiness.
In two pieces, Lively moves away from imagining methods of engineering the earth’s atmosphere and toward considering how to keep its potential toxicity at bay. In the small sculpture, “Albedo Dome 1,” he places a cheery little house surrounded by stylized green shrubs under a blown-glass bubble. The dome’s strange frosted portals have a roundness that visually echoes the spherical bushes. Lively takes this vision into two dimensions in the large oil painting, “Thermo Baller,” which offers viewers an aerial view through brown-flecked clouds of bubble-protected domesticity.
Lively’s ideas are rich, but his execution is equally interesting, incorporating drips in his paintings and allowing sculpted elements to remain off-kilter. Consequently, “Odebla” offers both fuel for thought and entertainment for the eye.
Matthew Lively’s exhibition, “Odebla,” is on view through March 3 in the North Gallery of the V. Earl Dickinson Building at Piedmont Virginia Community College. 501 College Dr. 961-5362.