Nancy Shaver’s assemblage art focuses on small fragments of reality, which takes them out of the everyday and frames them into a new context as art. Photographs, found paintings, pieces of old tapestry and other bits of detritus are incorporated into the work and occasionally even literally “framed” to signify their passage from one side of life to the other.
But it’s not the work’s use of the language of assemblage that makes it effective. (In some ways Shaver makes it seem almost too easy to strike resonance from the rich life associations in the items she uses.) It’s the way the objects are able to pass into art, all the while objecting that they’re still the same old things. The ingenuous charm and honesty of a rusted iron trough placed beside two white folded paper boats on the gallery floor is infused with a gentle power. Like the silver cups and tin foil wrapped pill bottle under glass in “Silver and Gold,” these items seem to declare that art can value things for all sorts of reasons. The shape of the trough is as functional and elegant as the paper boats. The heirloom cups are as useful as the tin wrapped bottle. This kind of childlike poetry reminds us that art is about approaches, not materials or art history. It asks us to consider everything in fresh relationship to everything else and makes us ask again for art to become part of a positive search for meaning. (Michael Kohn Gallery, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., to April 8.)