Traveling Down the Rabbit Hole with MozArt

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013  |  2 Comments

Traveling Down the Rabbit Hole with MozArt

By Shawn Daniell

As I strolled through Rondle West’s solo show, MozArt, at the gallery One One at Brazee Street Studios I couldn’t help feeling as if I was strolling through a candy coated wonderland. While pursuing my undergraduate degree in Media Informatics at Northern Kentucky University I had the opportunity to report on West’s first art exhibition in the fall of 2010 at the Northern Kentucky University Art Galleries. At that time I was not there to review the show, but merely there as a reporter with NKU’s independent student paper, The Northerner. But even then I was drawn to the drama at play in his pieces. When I saw that West’s first solo show in Cincinnati was opening I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to revisit his artwork as an art critic.

West, represented by the Miller Gallery, creates elaborate assemblage, mixed media sculptural pieces composed of found objects which include rescued toys, religious paraphernalia, and figurines. Each sculptural piece contains many toys and other found objects glued together, layer upon layer, and then sealed with a layer of bright paint. The objects included butterflies, Buddhas, rosaries, birds, cages, statues of Jesus, Mozart figurines, the Virgin Mary, cats, wolves, and much more. As you look at each construction you can almost hear and feel the separate parts vying for attention and fighting for the spotlight. I remember when I first saw West’s artwork back in 2010 how much I was struck by the irresistible urge to travel the work with my fingers; they are truly pieces that cater to more than one of the senses (sight and touch). One viewing is never enough because on each new viewing you may see something that you missed on your last time. Perhaps the statue of a seated Buddha may peek out at you or the head of a super hero may draw you in. It’s this quality of surprise and viewer exploration that I admire the most with West’s artwork, the surreal dreamy vibe of an ever changing piece of artwork.

In West’s current show Wofgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute is the inspiration behind the twelve pieces on display (the thirteenth piece was unavailable for display). West reinterprets the opera making it accessible to new audiences. As someone who has limited experience with opera I was delighted with how the artist blends high and low brow art forms. As part of my research for this review I listened to the “Queen of the Night Aria” and saw the beautiful connections between West’s work and the sumptuous music: a delightful extravagance and dramatic use of “materials”. My only suggestion for this exhibit would be to include an audio element by introducing a way for gallery visitors to listen to portions of The Magic Flute while they take in West’s artwork.

For me MozArt was a trip through the present and the past, mixing remnants from childhood, religious iconography, and musical history with a frenetic vibe of current media age. Each sculptural piece screams to me to be noticed, to be adored, and explored like those Facebook and Twitter users constantly seeking attention with their posting and tweeting. There is nothing subtle about West’s creations, they are trippy fantasies come to life. While some reviewers may consider the pieces nightmarish I consider them to be a metaphor of our lives, a wild ride down the rabbit hole. And what can I say, it’s one hell of a ride.

MozArt is on display through November 1 at gallery One One in the Brazee Street Studios located in Cincinnati. For more information about the exhibit and Rondle West you can visit their respective websites at  HYPERLINK “” and  HYPERLINK “” .



  1. Sue Donaldson says:

    October 23rd, 2013at 7:59 pm(#)

    Wish I could see his magnificent work in person. I am curious and since I cannot tell from the photos & when you write “then sealed with a layer of bright paint” Does he paint with a brush or are they sprayed for an even lovely coat of paint? THANK YOU…

  2. Joyce Huffer says:

    October 23rd, 2013at 8:00 pm(#)

    His work is so unique, it is hard to know what to say