Press Release: “Para-Verbal Vocab”

“Para-Verbal Vocab” showed in the SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017, in room 2318, from March 1-6.  The show opened Tuesday, February 28th.

The exhibition is curated by Kristen Racaniello.

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Christa Pratt speaking with Danny Coeyman about her work at the opening of  Para-Verbal Vocab.

Original Press Release: 

Meaningful verbal vernacular is dead.  We live in a world of alt-fact, ego-driven, insular-nationalist leadership.  In a parallel history to the progression of American english, artists have developed personal visual vocabularies as mediators between individual self and global identity.  The artists in this exhibition have created an idioglossic language– a vocabulary of alphabet mark which only they can understand and create. These alternate vocabularies can be used to utter interior truths that are otherwise oppressed.

The resurgence of an emphasis on Materiality in art is an attempt to assert presence and existence within a world of ephemerality and fluidity.  The artists included in Para-Verbal Vocab. grasp onto the idea of selfhood and grapple with its complexity through physical repetition, multiplication of form, darkness, and an encroaching, sculptural materiality in their paintings.  These artists include Katherine Bradford, Courtney Childress, Christa Pratt, Eleanna Anagnos, Katie Hector, Lena Schmid, and Mandy Lyn Ford

As technology develops, a crisis of the Self proliferates throughout society.  Our virtual lives performed through social media develop simultaneously and distinctly from our physical, bodily self. Even within social media platforms different selves are constructed; self presentation  is different on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, LinkedIn profiles… the list of virtual selves is endless and distinct.  This phenomena of decentered, socially relational selfhood manifests itself visually and is explored by artists today.

The search for individuality, newness, production, and expression through paint are all attempts to capture the self and manifest its real-ness in solid physical form through developing an interior visual language. The promise of uniqueness and individuality through art; those by-products of Expressionism, Kant and Renaissance Fetishism, is a well maintained illusion.  How can painters explore the creation of “selves” through this physical and historically charged medium?

The application of paint creates an indexical mark and it is in part this association with indexicality that gives paint its association with authenticity.  The materiality of paint therefore acts as an appropriate conduit for the formation of physical selfhood.  Katherine Bradford, Courtney Childress, Mandy Lyn Ford and Eleanna Anagnos take the repetition of form as a point of departure.  Each repeated character is unique, as seen in the jagged ship-shapes found in Katherine Bradford’s work; these rely on the materiality of the mark itself via the painterly index to generate individual charecters. The index is a verification of origin and therefore indicates authenticity through its directness and independence from the maker.  This authenticity is embedded in the work of Courtney Childress, who uses the repeated mark of high pile carpet as a ground on which to play with the repetition of the index as a form of sensory recall.  The audience of her works becomes aware of their own self construction through culturally embedded memories surrounding carpet, paint, crayon, dirt, rules, restrictions, and childhood actions.  Through the audience’s personal projection, Childress as an artist-self is pushed away, hidden from the viewer by the material of her works.

The exploration of a single mark in Lena Schmid, Katie Hector, and Christa Pratt’s work plays a similar role; it is an exploration of the multiplicity of the mark within their own closed visual circuit created through repetition and proliferation.  Lena Schmid uses her finger prints to create an undulating foliage of black-hole space. In the obliterating repetition of this identity mark, Schmid loses the very self she imprints on her surfaces.   Katie Hector repeats the same mark through multiple works using thick, glossy black enamel whose reflective surface causes the audience to confront themselves within it.  Christa Pratt also repeats marks throughout multiple pieces, confronting her viewers with questions about their social perceptions and inherent bias toward blackness as an identity.  By these means, the mark becomes a surrogate for the self: its exploration is a self exploration.Para-Verbal Vocab-6.jpg

The self-constructing nature of the index and mark are not the only elements of these works which will be explored in this show.  The highly physical materiality of these paintings, as seen in Eleanna Anagnos’ work Winter Seance, combats the immateriality of the virtual self and attempts to assert physical presence as a thing. Mandy Lyn Ford pushes the boundaries of the painted rectangle through her oozingly material works which reference both the black screen of modern technology and classical pictorial space.  Yet these dimensional works reek of an absence.  They are simplified in their form-content: here the artist acquires the attributes of the black mirror, turning material fetish into an existential lack.Para-Verbal Vocab-5.jpg

The object-oriented nature of these painterly works serves to assert the veracity of material existence. The works are all related through their explorations of the unknowable fluidity of darkness and light.  In this search to find the essence of form; the forms true self, these artists all show that the realization of a true self is impossible. With the painting as a surrogate self, the imagined true Self of the artist is diminished, hidden inside a complex network of material physicality, and the search for the limits of repeated form.  Instead, their paintings perform as actors within a theatre of identity; generating a vocabulary that shifts and evolves alongside themselves.

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Era VI VII VI: Début

The show Début, currently on display at the trimonthly artist-run gallery space Era VI VII VI, is the first exhibition in the project space featuring all four in-studio artists and founders. In this eclectic show each individual artist’s voice is strong and highly independent. The aesthetic vocabulary in the four artist’s bodies of work reveals conflicting ideals between each of the four founders, yet results in a harmonious oeuver displayed in the space. This lack of cohesion between ideals does not detract from each piece, but highlights the words of Leyla Mozayen in the press release which read that:

“antithetical methods of art making are explored… Era VI VII VI and its featured gallery-artists have much bigger ideas about how to have it all.”

This show does, indeed, have it all.

Début is staged in a perfect first floor space with windows to the street right on the corner of Gates and Woodward Ave in Ridgewood. The monolith given center stage in the gallery is the creation of Hilliary K. Gabryel and is entitled The Eleventh Dynasty. It reminds viewers of the past and present roles of women in society and the arts, composed of voluptuous, rolling furs, delicate pearl pin-heads, crushed velvet, and coconut oil, to name a few of the materials in this distinctly feminine, neo-baroque contraption of brooding space.

The six works of Daniella Gomez Paz on display in Début exhibit a much subtler femininity, yet speak volumes to the power of the word and the sway that it has held over women and minorities. These works are all vaguely anthropomorphic (with exception to My Words Are Worthless Voicing To You, a wall sculpture which is essentially a cascading waterfall of fabric letters which burst from fleshy pink silk) and word based. Nestled in the very corner, closest to the windows of the gallery is a nest like wall piece aptly named Tying Together Your Lies. This work by Gomez Paz is a beautiful example of femininity evoked through hand cut fabrics, biographic language, and intimacy. Although coy and feminine, these works are strikingly bold and challenging.

These first two artist’s works confront the entrant to the gallery space with material presence while the remaining two artist’s works become progressively minimalist, though no less emphatic of their interest in physicality. Blue Moon is a work by Julia Hundley which deals with fleeting images and non-materiality through these images lack of surface clarity. Screen shots of sunset advertisements and “unknown dik” pictures are projected onto a metallic emergency blanket which is draped in a blasé manner across a column-like outcropping. Hundley makes no attempt to hide the fact that some of the materials involved in the creation of her work are generated through clunky technology, namely a projector and simple motor mechanism. Instead, she allows these objects to contrast with the material actions they create; the projector box casts glittering, ephemeral light across an already shimmering surface, while the motor twirls a blue rose in a carefree motion which feels strangely sad in the very back corner of the gallery.

Linda Rucina’s three works deal with only three materials each; the two Studies consist of glass spheres on paper applied with an unspecified adhesive, and her piece Polyphony consists of nylon suede-tex fibers, glitter, and a yet again unspecified adhesive. Unlike Hundley’s piece, the visibly immaterial is here ignored in order to bring out the clarity of materiality. Rucina’s work displays an intense fascination with light, organic pattern, and texture.

In fact, the title of Rucina’s piece perfectly describes the cohesion of Début; it is a polyphony of aesthetics; a conglomerate of simultaneously combined parts, each with an individual melody and yet each harmonizing perfectly with the other. The show is open this saturday, March 28, and sunday, March 29 from 1:00 to 5:00pm. The Era VI VII VI project space is located at 676 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.

Zabar Artist Lecture: Robert Barry & Non-Material Art

On a wednesday night Hunter College students and staff packed into a crowded lecture hall on the second floor of 205 Hudson to listen to the words of Robert Barry, which are physically plastered to the ground level gallery walls below.  Barry is famed for his work using invisible media, performance, and word based “suggestive artworks;” a term coined by Barry himself at wednesday’s lecture.  The exhibition in the 205 Hudson gallery downstairs and in the room adjacent to the lecture hall is a retrospective of fifty impressive years spent making immaterial artworks.   

The exhibition consists of work from the 1960‘s onward and includes a variety of media, from video to painting, drawing, exhibition catalogues, and even to a student run performance which continues throughout the duration of gallery hours.  The physical manifestations of Barry’s work are minimal and word based.  Performers in the gallery are instructed to project words out into space as if these words are objects.  Time floats around each word, cushioning it like the ephemera of air, gas, and light which construct and simultaneously disassociate object/things from space.  Barry has proven himself, time and again, to have a profound interest in the intangible; should he phrase his flippant explanations differently, his work could signify religion, the sacred, and the ineffable.  Yet Barry strives not to place this emphasis on his work.  He is profoundly grounded in nature and the physical. In keeping with many other conceptual artists, Robert Barry rejected outright the label of “conceptual art” (a term supported by critics and the internet at large: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Barry_%28artist%29) when a student put the term forward during the lecture.    

Robert Barry adopted the persona of an artist who easily navigates the art world organism.  He presented his ideas vaguely making statements such as “(I hope) that people might get lost in my work,” and indeed Barry stated that he “kind of liked” when people did not understand his creations. These vague allusions to meaning and viewer impact created intrigue among his audience and made him appear detached and sometimes disinterested in his own work.  This act (if it was one) does no justice to the essence of the ineffable power that his work evokes. 

For the past month, I myself have performed Barry’s timed wordlist once a week.  The experience is gripping in its ability to transport the actor out of themselves through careful, meditative focus on one specific word/object/thing which is then projected outward into the space of the gallery every thirty seconds.    Barry’s categorical explanation of each piece in the retrospective of his career did no justice to the experience of his work; it successfully portrayed him as a likable but detached artist. In my experience, and I suspect many others, the work of Robert Barry speaks for itself.  It is provocative, it has gravity, it creates thought.

The words of Robert Barry are best when left on the wall.