ArtBurn: (En)lighted: Burley, Hennessey, and Pennington at Lab Gallery

Scott Pennington's work, on display as part of (En)lighted at Lab Gallery. Photo by Paul Hrusa

By PAUL HRUSA — (En)lighted is not an exhibit about light, but rather how sculptors Melissa Burley, Sean Hennessey, and Scott Pennington use light to get our attention. Burley’s intimate light boxes are framed with interior strips of LEDs that evoke a shadowy light like that of a single bulb in an attic. Hennessey’s illuminated metal-framed glass lightboxes are backlit with recurring washes of cool vibrant colors. Pennington’s carnivalesque wall sculptures are patterned with light bulbs that hum and flash in sequences found only on amusement park rides or in traffic intersections. But beyond the spectacle of light are stories about the passage of time.

Sean Hennessey’s main ingredient is glass and he often utilizes mundane utilitarian shapes such as locks, gears, bulbs, doors, rope, and tile. He crafts inverted glass molds of these shapes, converting them into cultural artifacts. These artifacts are embedded into sections of glass in a neat, serial manner that approaches ornamentation. Hennessey then combines these separate sections into a larger lightbox structure resembling an architectural façade. The relation of artifacts upon this façade creates fragments of revelation and folly.

Melissa Burley’s main ingredient is found metal objects such as discarded machinery, bicycle parts, gears, and piano parts. She arranges this detritus of the industrial age into layered steampunk golden spirals that evoke the inner workings of memory and appear to be on the precipice of mechanical activity but never move. This precise tension transcends the boundaries of the box and documents a possible order of the universe.

Scott Pennington’s main ingredient is wood with which he constructs large, colorful, funhouse-like 3-dimensional wall assemblages. His intention is specific and experiential, but the more non-objective and less literal these constructions are, the more ambiguous and powerful they become. Each of these three pieces in the show might have an origin story, but it is unclear whether they are reclaimed pieces from a defunct sideshow or reconstructions of childhood remembrances. They hint at sugar-coated ritual, sensory escapism, and adolescent rites of passage but more importantly, Pennington questions if we are stuck in line.

(En)lighted is on view through Aug. 11 at Lab Gallery, a new experimental space inside the Gateway Arts Center, located at 3901 Rhode Island Ave., BrentwoodMd. Exhibit is free. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

ArtBurn is a new column reviewing local art. Paul Hrusa is a painter who lives and works in Hyattsville. His work has been exhibited in New York City, Washington DC, and Richmond, among other places. You can find more about him at his website.

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