From Cosmology to Neurology and Back Again packs Whitespace Gallery with dozens of works by 22 artists to visually hypothesize how culture, neurology, psychology, and semiotics intersect. If that sounds like a lot to take in, that's because it is. The show is curated by local critic/author/artist Jerry Cullum, who cultivated his interest in these disparate and burgeoning fields years ago as an undergrad. Cullum has continued his research and rumination on these topics for decades, particularly regarding, as he puts it, "how the mind deceives itself, or how its biological limitations lead us astray." Cullum uses the exhibit's overwhelmingly ambitious theme to explore art's response to the many unsolved mysteries of the cosmos, the brain, and the mind.
Cognitive science and the formal study of culture have expanded in the past century. Artists Bethany Collins and Mike Germon comment on the intertwining of these nascent fields. In "(Unrelated)," Collins focuses on the black/white racial binary while Germon exaggerates historical superstitions with his six collages.
Germon's "Fin de Siecle" features the Biblical seductress Salome wandering alone through a wilderness, crossed with the text "Nature's terrifying death trap." Here, nature's dark side means more than the physical threat of natural disasters or getting lost in the woods. It is also our biological and neurological makeup that can manifest in mental disorder, as Julie Sims displays in "Eruptive Fissure, Hippocampal Subfields." Sims imagines the brain as an Arctic-like landscape ablaze with a glowing chemical pathway, showing that nature can set up terrifying traps within us, too.
Cross sections of science and culture appear in more playful ways as well. Nikki Starz displays a cast plastic version of an imagined beast with "Unishark," which looks kind of like a narwhal, but with a shark body. Henry Detweiler's "#manymoons," comprised of framed QR codes, parodies our technology-obsessed culture by linking the codes to the same images Karley Sullivan uses in her scratch board series "160 Moons." Chelsea Raflo's stop-motion video "You Will Eventually" follows a young girl being chased by interconnecting lines and dots, possibly a crude representation of her DNA. The menacing geometry envelops the landscape around her, knocking against her window as she escapes through a trap door, but ultimately ensnares her.
Art that expounds upon science is often limited to reflections on hard evidence. But when scientific theory is inconclusive, the artists are capable of providing potential answers, lending a new level of legitimacy to the artists' meditations. In curating such a sweepingly cerebral exhibit, Cullum expects a lot from the viewer, but Cosmology to Neurology attempts to give more than it asks. The show is rewarding if not entirely accessible. Read the essays Cullum has published on Whitespace's blog, allot a solid chunk of time to see the exhibit, peruse the artist statements, ask questions, and the show will become burned into your brain.