THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS
“The conception of space that has been developed here suggests that a model of political culture appropriate to our own situation will necessarily have to raise spatial issues as its fundamental organizing concern.”—Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” New Left Review, July–August 1984, p. 89.
“We have come to realize that ‘just looking’ is not just looking but that looking is invested with identity: gender, socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation. Ask a few simple questions to define aesthetics: Whose aesthetics? At what historical time? Under what circumstances? For what purposes? And who is deciding quality, etc.? Then you realize suddenly and very quickly that aesthetic choices are politics.”—Félix González-Torres, Félix González-Torres, (New York: A.R.T. Press, 1993), p. 21.
As Jameson and Gonzalez-Torres taught us, looking is no simple act. Even tiny, humble artworks have much to teach us. “Time Share” and “Warm Welcome” are paeans both to Monaco Gallery, an artist co-op, and the textual operations and activism of artist Sage Dawson. Artist-Curator Jeff Robinson’s curatorial statement for “Time Share” declares that it “makes reference to those dwellings with shared ownership as a lens for considering artist collectives like Monaco, and to engender a spirit of mutuality that is required in such communal spaces.”
Fourteen works of varying codes of abstraction vie to construct the curatorial narrative mapping private and social terrains. The exhibition spaces divide two themes of “Time Share,” the larger and lead theme, with the smaller, related exhibit, “Warm Welcome.”
Identities of space here are measured in a multitude of aspects: personal, geological, architectural, intimate, humble, beautiful (or at least elevated), humorous, eccentric, as well as time- or event-based.
Frances Lightbound, Overlay (Sites of Exchange), 2019. Vinyl tile, plywood, acrylic, pine, masonite, stainless steel chain, security envelope, polyurethane, padlock, latex paint, US and EU currency, jacquard weaving, salvaged concrete, dimensions variable.
Photo by R. Freeman.
Organically, both exhibits suggest various domicile signifiers, including a literal chair, fireplace, textile fabrics (drapery, carpet), clothing, and, perhaps, even artworks on the wall of a home. The installation layout of the artworks aids its interpretation. Front and center is Frances Lightbound’s Overlay (Sites of Exchange) which most resembles an architectural model. Overlay’s gallery positioning indicates the exhibition’s overall theme and relates to all other artworks. Lightbound makes use of several curious icons—a combination lock, a wad of discarded paper, alphabetic symbols and, philosophically, real currency imbedded into the model’s foundation.
Colorful woodcuts exquisitely printed and framed by Kelly Kaczynski suggest architectural spaces and uplifting moods. These prints, along with those of Mark Joshua Epstein, broaden the exhibition’s thematic definition. Epstein sets the pace with colorful, multi-dimensional paintings of mixed media as the quintessential map icons of the exhibition. His supremely labored efforts at distinct, varying textures within the terrains suggest the diverse communities within a democracy. He echoes “Time Share’s” theme of diversity, collaboration, negotiation, and compromise within a shared space.
Kelly Kaczynski, Stages (eclipse, still), 2018, woodcut monoprint,
11 x 15 in. Photo by R. Freeman.
SaraNoa Mark and Tom Burtonwood offer the most archly rigorous aesthetics. SaraNoa Mark’s Holy land, holding sand, a carefully organized series of small multiple Ziploc baggies of variously textured and colored soils, conveys the sense of an archaeological dig while simultaneously mapping varying strata of geologic space. Burtonwood, with a playful sense of the abject coupled with humor, reimagines the home hearth as industrial sign in Re Inverso Exterior. Burtonwood’s title implies he has made an inverse or contrary use of exterior materials.
Mary Laube establishes a different sensibility of home space with meticulous, sensual paintings. Hanbok may reference traditional Korean clothing, and Perfume figures as the latest little black dress, while the wildcard Urn relates etymologically to the ballot box.
Melissa Leandro anchors the exhibition aesthetically with richly colored, sumptuously handcrafted textiles. Intensely stitched and thoughtfully differentiated texturings, these abstractions stand alone without concern for content or interpretation. Titles may or may not offer guidance.
“Time Share” functions on one level along the same lines as Fredric Jameson’s “cognitive mapping” concept, which conceives of artworks as way-finders in today’s world. On another level, this exhibition rigorously uses abstraction for its representations of “domesticity, architecture, and an overall concern for the identity of space.” I would have liked to have seen the written word interceding on the abstract symbolism’s behalf. For who else might this artwork reach? Who might be acculturated to read it?
Democracies are communal spaces, and Monaco’s artist collective is an interpretive microcosm for those diverse constituents.
The coda to “Time Share” is “Warm Welcome,” which features three artists and Sage Dawson supplementing the front room exhibition. “Warm Welcome’s” works codify structures within structures. Installed in a long and narrow space, the exhibition creates a forced intimacy with the works. The eight objects are humble and related material-wise to homes and buildings. At the room’s end, a Sage Dawson collagraph, Outmoded, emulates a narrow swath of wallpaper with hand-painted black bricks interspersed with perhaps clouds and redline details. Placed carefully in the lower corner of the brick wallpaper is a building fragment of concrete and mosaic tiles with no obvious pattern. Just above Outmoded, but in tight proximity, a digital print-supplemented wall clock by Masumi Shibata humorously urges one to alternately exhale and inhale every other hour. Not so humorously, there is only a sweeping second hand in motion. Their mood is somber, but they suggest time and space as structures within structures of the home.
Jarrett Dawson built an elaborate homage, Shrine to an Unknown House God, out of ordinary rubble from perhaps a demolished or remodeled home. Despite its materials, its mood conveys deep reverence. Jarrett and Sage Dawson teamed up for Todd’s Birthday, which consists of more found abstract building materials, but animated with a pair of plastic googly eyes that would delight any child.
Dwaine Crigger’s pair of drawings set negation against negation with Cancelled work series—Drawing for never realized work IX and X. The exquisite drawings and meticulously sewn-in metal parts date socially and politically from 1975. The drawings are historic touchstones for the exhibition’s themes of coded abstractions.
But it is the art of Sage Dawson which guides this space. Dawson’s art-making philosophy exemplifies “dwelling rights [i.e., the human right to a home; legal protection from housing discrimination], domestic labor, and the identity of spaces.” Two Dawson works, A Cloud, A Pull and Soon Comes Night establish direction and one central theme of the works on display. The direction is the careful representations of structures within structures, particularly using home or building materials. That central theme might be considered the found beauty in the humblest of materials.
Sage Dawson, Soon Comes Night, 2019, detail. Acrylic on paper, wood, collagraph on dyed canvas. Photo by R. Freeman.
For this writer, the fundamental motif is found in Soon Comes Night. A long strip of molding with a sort of floral design that has long since been painted white featuring a small, exposed hinge section of wood, where two screw holes once held, perhaps, a latch in place. Inside that space are two abstract squares with green and white paint. This small structure within the larger molding structure echoes the entire exhibition’s theme. The theme is something like the endless stories within stories of our homes and habitats that speak ad infinitum throughout these structuring absences and presences. We just need to look for them.
Rusty Freeman is the Director of Visual Arts, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon, IL.
SaraNoa Mark, Holy land, holding sand, 2019, detail. Sand, plastic, dimensions variable. Photo by R. Freeman.
Melissa Leandro, Untitled, 2018. High back chair, wood, canvas, woven cloth, dye, embroidery, stitching, applique. 51 x 25 x 24 in. Photo by R. Freeman.
Masumi Shibata, MasumiEducational, 2008, digital print, clock. Sage Dawson, Outmoded, 2019, collagraph, marbled paper, mosaic wall fragment. Photo by R. Freeman.
Jarrett Dawson, Shrine to an Unknown House God, 2019. Wood, brick, stone, dust, archaeological finds and other found materials. Photo by R. Freeman.
Make a MONTHLY DONATION or a ONE-TIME DONATION via PayPal
SUBSCRIBE to the print version of the New Art Examiner via PayPal