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Vibrance and unpredictability shine in an art show in Louisville’s South End

A piece of visual art made of of panels hung on both sides of the corner of a wall show colorful, loopy, twisty lines.
Scott Recker
The exhibition “slow and clunky decision making” features Little’s colorful drawings.

Alicia Little’s solo exhibition at Louisville’s Houseguest Gallery mesmerizes with mazes of bright colors and unpredictable structures. “Slow and clunky decision making” runs through Saturday.

During the pandemic, Alicia Little wanted to shift the way she practiced art. Before, she made sculptures and installations that took up a lot of space, but her goal was to find a path to working on a smaller scale.

So, as part of her daily studio practice, she began a series of drawings that start with one line that loops and intersects itself several times, eventually forming a loose grid that gets filled with oil pastel, creating unique and whimsical patterns of bright colors.

The vibrant result is one of the main focal points of Little’s solo exhibition, “slow and clunky decision making,” which is currently showing at the Houseguest Gallery in the South End.

“This type of line drawing is something that I would do in my sketchbook all of the time throughout my life, and it’s just one of those things, that it’s almost like a doodle or a meditative thing,” Little told LPM News. “I’m not thinking about a specific image, it’s really just like letting my hand move on the page.”

The freewheeling flow of the lines compel a viewer from far away. Up close, there’s more detail to be extracted. That’s where Little’s work really shines. All of the nuances of the patterns, shapes, shadows and how the pastels settled become magnified the closer you get. Even what might be considered a blemish, where colors overflow from their space, are interesting, like freckles and scars on skin.

“For me, it’s more about the process and the physical act of making, rather than starting with a concept or an idea,” Little said.

The exhibition also features ceramic sculptures and tufted textiles, which add layers and dimensions to the show. Little said that the pieces take a look at the idea of awkwardness.

“Often in my work, I’m interested in things that might be slumping or, they are a little bit off or awkward, so with those grid sculptures that are in the show, they are very crooked and they kind of melt into themselves a little bit,” Little said. “I think about it like a kind of awkwardness, too.”

In a gallery with white walls, a colorful pastel drawing hangs in the corner. In the foreground, a sculpture made of three cubes, without walls, has sloping sides.
Scott Recker
The small, tabletop ceramic sculptures in the exhibition also feature unorthodox grids

Little is originally from Cincinnati, but currently lives in Detroit, a city known forits scrappy and experimental art scene. She has had solo and two-person exhibitions in Ohio cities such as Cincinnati, Columbus and Lima, and she’s also been a part of group exhibitions in New York City, Reno and Barreiro, Portugal, where she did a residency last year.

Little completed her undergrad at Art Academy of Cincinnati, where she met Megan Bickle, the facilitator of Houseguest Gallery.

Bickle said she’s been interested in setting up a solo exhibition of Little’s work for several years. It’s the depth and range of Little’s work that makes it exciting for her.

"Alicia Little investigates form, color, and what is referred to as 'color in the expanded field.' Meaning, she thinks about elements associated with drawing, design, and painting and pulls them into textile weavings, found object installations, and more recently, ceramic sculptures,” Bickle said. “She volleys in between highly executed craft and an intentional corruption of craft that allows for really playful, teetering, and silly works."

In “slow and clunky decision making,” there’s flow and familiarity, but it’s the unpredictability of the art that gives it life. Little describes the process of making the art as meditative, and viewing the art feels similar. Your eyes move with the lines, take unexpected paths and become fixated on minor details within an individual color.

Little said as she created the pieces for this show, she wasn’t quite sure how or where they would end. It’s a driving force behind the exhibit. The pastels she uses have a texture like lipstick, which creates an uncertain outcome.

“It soaks into the paper, and leaves this sort of halo around the image and it kind of, like, becomes uncontrollable over time,” Little said. “And I’m really interested in that — that it sort of shifts on its own a little bit after the drawing is made.”

“slow and clunky decision making” is currently showing at Houseguest Gallery and runs through Saturday, Aug. 26. The gallery hours are Saturdays from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and by appointment.

Support for this story was provided in part by theGreat Meadows Foundation.

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