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Seher Shah, Geometric Landscape and the Spectacle of Force (detail), 2009
Archival Giclee Print, 147 x 305 cm

I discovered Seher Shah perched on the floor of the Jones Center lobby, carefully arranging the hundreds of small, white, cast Hydrocal objects that comprise her Object Repetition installation, part of her show Constructed Landscapes at AMOA/Arthouse. The result was minimalistic and kinetic, reminding me of Maya Lin and Jacob Hashimoto, other artists who decipher the structural elements underlying our everyday environment to reveal common patterns.

To Shah, Object Repetition is a metaphor for anxiety, in that the physical act of repeating is a way to release one’s anxiety. It references both quick, cheap, mass production and the crystal pinnacles found atop skyscrapers, such as the Frost Bank Tower in downtown Austin. From a distance, Object Repetition looks like a serene, yet skittish, white wave of perfection; but closer, the illusion of clinical uniformity is gone, as ink markings, air bubbles, and handmade imperfections become apparent. By reducing the built landscape to its simplest geometry at such a small scale, Shah invites the viewers to project their own associations onto glaringly bare reenactments of everyday environmental design. The effect is memorable, both beautiful and unsettling.

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