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Divining the meaning of Ran Adler’s ‘Presence’


Presence opens in FGCU’s Wasmer Gallery with a 5:00-7:00 p.m. reception and gallery talk on Thursday, January 30. The exhibition contains work specially prepared not only for the show, but for the gallery space by assemblage artist Ran Adler.

There is a distinct and profound Zen-like quality to the works included in the exhibition. In fact, the very title of the show implicates the doctrine of anicca or impermanence and its corollary, living presently, in the moment.

The notion of impermanence (anicca) forms the bedrock for the Buddha’s teaching. On a grand or macro scale, the doctrine postulates that the universe is expanding and disintegrating in repetitive cycles throughout beginning-less time. On a physical plane, all beings, from people to micro-organisms, are mortal, subject to “being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and disintegration.” For that matter, even metal and rocks are subject to decay through oxidation and the action of wind, water and sunlight. And on a mental or existential plane, every thought, emotion, smell, taste, sight and sound are transient. They arise and then pass out of existence like waves lapping on a sandy shore.

The Buddhist reaction to impermanence is presence, living with immediacy, being in the moment, neither clinging to the past nor worrying about the future. Regret, mourning, fear and anger all come from comparing the present moment with a past, future, or alternative moment. Moreover, clinging and craving, scanning and planning impedes our ability to see what is right in front of us, to savor our daily experiences.

Living authentically in the moment – or having presence – enables us to be more deeply in touch with the texture of our lives, the fine details, in which pleasure and meaning reside.

Adler’s constructs symbolize the impermanence of nature and signify the texture each of us can achieve by being present in our lives. In the former regard, Adler marshals a host of organic material as the building blocks of his expansive compositions. From horsetail rushes to mahogany seed pods, they are subject to decay, decomposition and degradation. But it is through his rhythmic, repetitive process of sorting, cutting, weaving, threading, burning and inscribing these materials into the large-scale pieces adorning the Wasmer Gallery walls that the prayer-like meditative state of presence is achieved. And through the operation of other cosmic principles, that state is transferred to Adler’s viewers, inducing them to  slow down,  pause and be in the moment as they contemplate the assemblages sprawling along the walls above, below and to either side of their POV.

Presence runs January 30 through February 27 in the Wasmer Gallery in the Arts Complex on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. It’s not just a show you have to see. It’s a show you really have to feel.

January 27, 2020.


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