A melancholic sense of fragmentation runs through 13 recent mixed-media collages by Suné Woods. Ire rumbles just beneath the graceful surface.
At Papillion Gallery, “Human Achievements in Limbo” is emblematic. Two modest slips of paper, both parts of pages torn from a book, are casually tacked to the wall, side by side.
One shows a West Indian woman entering the Guinness Book of World Records for doing a seemingly impossible dance maneuver, sliding her supple body beneath a limbo pole barely 6 1/2 inches off the ground.
The other displays an Apollo rocket — symbol of soaring human achievement — plus a luminous quasar, a remote celestial object that even the most advanced rocket cannot reach.
Collaged onto that faraway, unreachable quasar, a black woman’s finger seems to be scratching through its surface, like a chick attempting to emerge from a distant egg. The carefully considered juxtaposition with the black dancer is heartbreakingly lovely — and bitter, too, given the uncertainty and suspension of triumph associated with a state of limbo.
An otherwise invisible undercurrent of racial and gender suppression — of grand ambition thwarted and held in check — pushes into the foreground. Woods coaxes layers of resonance from very simple means, a key to a powerful collage.
The remaining works, two nearly 5 feet on each side, elaborate similar themes, sometimes in more abstract ways. Likewise, fleeting images of solitary, fragmented existence mark a short, two-channel video projection.
The looped video, “A Feeling Like Chaos,” is punctuated by a sudden, brief shot of a woman dressed in finery and reclining on top of a sidewalk retaining wall. She is laughing madly, but her glee seems less an expression of authentic joy than a clamoring hedge against alienation and anguish.
By Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times Arts & Culture section