Red Crosses, 2001
linen, wax, thread
13" x 12½" x 3"
from the Body Armor Sculptures Series

Suitable Means
New Art Center, Newton, Jan-March 2002
by Taline Voskeritchian, Arts Media

Suitable Means is an exhibition whose best moments achieve the kind of curious, sometimes unexpected transparency and and joy which is the result of having seen something you did not notice the first time around.

We are told that the idea behind the exhibition is the "use of clothing as an art material or structural reference". Literally and derivatively, the idea of clothing as means is exhaustively deployed and sometimes transcended in the work of the four artists, Aparna Agrawal, Lorey Bonante, Pat Shannon, and Susan Halter, who also curated the show.

The show is also notable for the diversity of found and created materials used—from snail shells, to jeans, to suits, to glass vials, to tea bags, to cheesecloth, to leather, to paper, to muslin to plaster.

But a governing idea is a double-edged sword, which can be generative and open-ended or tyrannical and opaque. Artists navigate through its narrow straits in a variety of guises –from the hyper serious to the light-hearted and all shades in between.

The sense of subdued violence is most saliently displayed in Agrawal's series, "Body Armors". Of the four artists, Agrawal adheres the most closely to a clear equation of the body as armor, and body covering as a kind of protection. The "Body Armor" series is variations on this theme where the human form becomes a surface for the meticulous hand of the artist. Here, Agrawal is working at the farther edges of the governing idea of the show. At first there is something horrific and shocking about Agrawal's human forms, something scarred and abandoned as in "Body Armor, Red Crosses", especially when you return to it after "Body Armor, Iridescent".