Nancy Brooks Brody’s recent works in her exhibition 2004-2007 are resolutely quiet; theirs is a silence of reflection and introspection. Brody’s voice is direct and candid as it illuminates dialogues around process, materiality and perception. Her works put themselves forward with a humble conviction and certainty. In their simple poetry, they find no need to boast.
A series of drawings made by sewing white thread into paper have a decidedly visceral tendency. They pull us in, pushing past the cerebral, socially imbued filter through which we tend to view art. These drawings have an ardent desire to be seen, investigated, and especially felt. The full effect of the work is contingent on quiet rumination, as Brody slows us down to the richness of real time, stitch by stitch. The buildup of threads reveals the wonderful wavering imperfection of a hand setting out to complete a rote task, like when an attempt to sew a straight-lined square reveals the unexpected curve of the artist’s wrist. As we enter into an intimate and acutely personal dialogue with these works, myriad layers of meaning unravel.
Brody’s process often plays machine-like precision against personal interpretation and handcraft. For instance, Lucky Corners, 2004-2006, was drawn on a smooth plaster ground using 7H pencils by two different manufacturers, took two years to complete, and structurally adheres to a mathematically measured system. But to describe the work in this narrative, deadpan way would entirely miss its point. The tonal variation of its surface is awe inducing, and it roils with constrained activity. The pencil lines are delicate and assured. Tactility is key. The sense of the artist’s hand alternately reveals and conceals pictorial space. Lucky Corners has accumulated time – a slow, deep time that moves inexorably forward – and metes it back to us with generosity.
Brody’s directness manifests itself in a more gestural manner in a series of sculptural works called Notes on Travel. Carefully chosen rocks – granite and shiny mica schist that were found by the artist during a recent stretch of time spent in the woods of New Hampshire – have been cleaved open with chisels. Brody accelerates geologic time by exposing a line of weakness in the rock, splitting it like one would open the pages of a book. She then paints both halves of the formerly touching surfaces, reassembling them to reveal intimate puzzles.
Brody’s practice is confident, assured and willful. As a result, these works speak with the clarity of their conviction to establish a personal experience of time, for the artist and for viewers alike. By reifying the tenuous relationship between intellect and body, reticence and conviction, exiguity and force, Brody’s works chart a tangible inner geography.