Reviewed by Katie Levy
Entire contents copyright 2011 Katie Levy. All rights reserved.
“DiscoTanqu” by Brad White
It is not often you get to see art in a small, dark, windowless environment instead of the typically high-ceilinged and well-lit space with clean white walls.  Conventional wisdom suggests it would not be advantageous to your average exhibit to be placed in such a space.
Oxygen, the show currently on display in the basement at Swanson Contemporary, is not your average art exhibit. Hanging on the walls in the basement space are five high-altitude oxygen tanks designed for the B-17 Bomber during WWII now repurposed into pieces of art, each by a different member of the artist collective, The Digital Immigrants. Each piece is for auction online at where you can bid on these tanks through the end of November, with 50 percent of all winning bids going to the Wounded Warrior Project. (
Participating artists include David Denniston, Brianne Derolph, Andrew Lundberg, Nathaniel Underwood and Brad White. All five of these Midwestern artists took their heavy piece of vintage machinery and transformed it into something drastically different from its original purpose. In addition to these somewhat haunting oxygen tanks, each artist has an additional piece, allowing the viewer to contrast the similarities or differences of the techniques used with the oxygen tanks against their usual work.
“Rationizer” by Brianne DeRolph

White’s piece, “DiscoTanque,” took me by surprise. At first glance, you see the leaden exterior of the tank, the rigidity and seriousness of purpose visually manifested by the seams and ridges running horizontally and vertically across its surface. The dim lighting and dark walls of the basement space draws out the soft, dim, blue glow coming from the tank’s interior. Implanted into the surface are what seem to be several oculi. As the glow pulls the viewer closer, one discovers that there’s more to the piece than first meets the eye. Staring through what is essentially an eye piece, one is transported inside the piece. A black-and-white, ever-expanding and contracting checkerboard pattern makes up the space. This near optical illusion gives the piece the “disco” part of its title and manages to create a stark contrast between the exterior and interior.  White’s artist statement perfectly sums up the feeling this piece creates with words like “stress” and “tension, ” with references to over-stimulation relating to information overload.

Another vessel that was particularly compelling was that of Brianne Derolph. Her oxygen tank, “Rationizer,” was transformed into the type of old gumball machine/toy dispenser where you’d deposit twenty-five cents and out popped a trinket inside a small clear case. After realizing that Derolph’s tiny containers are empty, it dawns on you that it is an oxygen dispenser. While fun and quirky at first, with the warm glow illuminating the oxygen capsules, discomfort sets in as the artist seems to be asking, “How long before the air we breathe is rationed, too?”
The exhibit was curated by Brad White, who is seeking to develop new models for delivering art to the audience, questioning both the functionality and economics of tradition methods. Certainly unconventional spaces and art auctions are not necessarily new ideas, but the marriage of the two into the cyberspace format is still uncommon and can fairly be characterized as experimental in the Louisville marketplace.
Also: Barbara Crawford: Four Decades of Photography
On display through November 26.
Online auction through November 30 at:
Swanson Contemporary
638 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40204