September 10 through September 27, 2011
The simple notion of paper is a malleable term in contemporary art. In many cases, The word connotes a flexible support, and the artists in Works on Paper, a group exhibition at Devin Borden Gallery, have tailored these supports to their personal projects with engaging results. The physical surface of paper itself challenges traditional ideas of what a drawing should be or is used to suit the work thematically.
Hilary Wilder’s use of acrylic paint on photo paper for her Liquor Cabinets for a New World series (2011) produces a faux bois effect with a glassy sheen. The properties of the acrylic, fighting adherence to the slick surface, produces, an effect that mimics the highly polished sectioned wooden cabinets that the artist became so intrigued with in her travels.
Melissa Thorne’s work also originates from a fascination with objects she has stumbled across. Thorne’s inspiration is remnants of textile works fashioned by anonymous craftswomen. The notion of “women’s work” takes on a conceptual edge as Thorne carefully pushes ink, like Wilder, onto a resistant Mylar surface to achieve an effect that simultaneously references traditional handiwork and rejects its original utilitarian use.
Maya Schindler’s application of watercolor to such a resistant and unconventional surface as Mylar goes hand in hand with her enigmatic choice of imagery. The tension between the surface and the washy, almost dreamy quality of Schindler’s iconic images can traditionally appealing, like an adorable bunny emerging from a magician’s top hat, or they can be dark and disturbing—such as handcuffs or a handguns.
Christopher French, pursuing his investigation in the graphic, iconic symbol or geometric abstraction arranged amidst or upon a less refined surface, also pushes his acrylic washes on to resistant sheets of Strathmore paper. Though his subject matter has evolved from the grid to concentrically formed floral forms, he consistently employs delicate supports such as Braille paper and sheets of Strathmore to convey a tension between subject matter and surface. Laura Lark’s use of Tyvek, a synthetic material made from polyethylene fibers, also links the artist’s subject matter with its support. Lark’s work, a subtle, ironic nod to fashion, post-feminism, and hair styling goes perfectly with this “paper” that has properties of textile, plastic, and stiff magazine pages.
Geoff Hippenstiel’s lush, buttery oil paintings—ostensibly read as grand, abstracted, and atmospheric—take on an intimate air in his small works on paper. Hippenstiel, inspired by pages from dated world atlases, transfers his impressions of a lost personal world with his trademark gesture in certain pieces and a delicate wash not seen in his works on canvas.
It is this attention to a created, alternative universe or a personal mythology can be seen in other artists featured in Works on Paper.
Matthew Sontheimer, for example, often addresses the subjects of personal history and idiosyncrasy by exploring meaning in an individual’s—namely his father’s–handwriting. His inquiries have manifested themselves in installation and drawings of many media, but his use here of a found postcard in this exhibition produces a clever yet personally meaningful result, as his own history intertwines with that of an unknown collaborator.
Eric Schnell is also deeply invested in a rather Jungian narrative and explores the images (both personal and traditionally archetypal) that are manifestations of therapy and analysis. His works on paper read as a loose rebellion of a traditional grid; with marks appropriated from dreams and memories, Schnell presents a map of his own psyche in a way that is fanciful and visionary.
Darryl Lauster depicts an intricate world that revisits and reframes figures and events in American history. His works on paper here, as with his sculptural and mixed media pieces, create altered narratives and lay emphasis on appropriated text upon paper that appears to be in itself antique. On surfaces that remind one of a distant time, the artist constructs a historical moment that accurately represents an attitude or incident with a mixture of truth and well-placed falsehoods.