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Local sculpture artist Nara Park has never played Minecraft, a world-building video game, but viewers of her work always ask if she has. It’s an easy connection to make—-the four structures in “Parallels,” Park’s exhibition on display through June 27 at Honfleur Gallery in Anacostia, are made of plastic boxes that look stunningly similar to the pixelated cubes used in MineCraft to represent building materials or earth.
But Park, who received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art last year, doesn’t play video games; she tries to keep her aesthetic as natural and untainted as possible. This tension—-between natural and synthetic materials—-forms the core of her exhibit. Imitating both sacred structures and stacks of manufactured products, Park’s sculptures invite touching, fiddling, and contemplation from viewers.
The most imposing structure (top photo), looming over the gallery from the back corner, is “Not Knowing Where From and Where To,” a fountain walled in by towering stacks of hexagonal cylinders. Printed with pixelations that approach the likeness of black and white granite, the plastic boxes lend the structure a kind of seriousness reminiscent of a garden or shrine. But the towers’ inspiration is from stacks of soda bottles in Wal-Mart, Park tells me. Accordingly, the boxes are made of PET, the same plastic used for soda bottles.
Throughout “Parallels,” angular, geometric shapes liaise between the natural and the commercial, the molecular and the cosmic. In the exhibition’s namesake installation (above), strings of hollow, plastic forms fill a fish tank. With a few gold fish swimming between them, the strings are reminiscent of DNA or protein chains, but also of more expansive, celestial bodies.
In “This water will bring you a miracle,” perhaps the exhibition’s most affecting sculpture, an extended, ruddy pink wall shields a deep basin and faucet. Absent water, the structure feels barren, the basin almost grave-like in its emptiness. The shine of the faucet and pattern of the boxes evoke a glittering and impersonal bathroom in a new suburban home; despite its lack of moisture, “This water” still makes me thirst for something.
The other two pieces, a slithering wall of clear plastic boxes and a group of several smaller stacks of rectangular and hexagonal boxes, also play with space and the sacred, though they feel less evocative than the first two. But on the whole, “Parallels” evinces an eerie, demanding take on material and space.