Gallery Show

The Old Straight Track

University of Houston sculptor Jillian Conrad's new show takes its inspiration from the theories of an eccentric turn-of-the-century archeologist.

By Daniel Renfrow June 18, 2013


Jillian Conrad, "The Old Straight Track" (2013)

Jillian Conrad: Ley Lines
Thru June 25
Tue–Sat 11–6
Devin Borden Gallery
3917 Main St.

Houston sculptor Jillian Conrad is a lot like that kid you knew growing up who was always playing with Tinker Toys, the one who, through some elaborate circumvention of the laws of physics, could build Dubai on your bedroom floor in under an hour.

Conrad, much like the Tinker Toys protégé of your youth, seems to have an intuitive understanding of how things connect. Much of the soft-spoken New Mexico native’s raw, earthy work focuses on slowing down the world as we see it and honing in on the subtleties of normally overlooked connections: how a wall meets a floor, how that wall is held together.

In Ley Lines, her solo exhibition at the Devin Borden Gallery, the University of Houston assistant professor of sculpture takes her interest in connection into a more magical realm.

The show was inspired by the work of the early twentieth century amateur British archaeologist Alfred Watkins, who sought to explain the apparent existence of massive trackways in the British landscape that seemed to follow the alignment of ancient monuments.

 “He was making this theory that in the landscape there are actually direct lines between natural and manmade monuments,” Conrad explains.

Watkins’s idea was later taken up by English New Age writer John Michell, who postulated that those ancient “Ley Lines” were connected to energy channels within the earth— a kind of large-scale feng shui that was unwittingly tapped into by ancient peoples.

From spindly, gravity-defying bronze sculptures that resemble antennae to map-like fabric drawings of graphite and thread, the fifteen pieces in the exhibition all resemble conduits for the natural energy of Watkins’s Ley Lines.

“I’m working with very familiar, ordinary, everyday materials,” Conrad says. “And there’s something very straightforward about the work. It’s all constructed in very straightforward ways. There’s no hidden magic going on, but at the same time I’m trying to have these everyday materials have a deeper presence, or a kind of energetic presence. A kind of mix of the mundane and magical fits what’s I’m trying to do.” 


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