Hendershot Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Digression, a group show featuring works by artists Chitra Ganesh, Liz Magic Laser, Simone Leigh, Divya Mehra, Justine Reyes, Kenya (Robinson), and Mary A. Valverde.
In everyday speech, digression is often something we apologize for, as it is construed as a problematic accident, a divergence from the main point that takes away meaning and dilutes the concentrated ‘essence’ of a lecture, a sermon, an interview, a musical theme, or a work of visual art. However, in literature and formal public oration, digression is traditionally defined as an intentional change of subject, an anecdote, for example, that is marked by its exceptionality in the context of a larger, more linear narrative. As linguist Sandra Schor wrote in her essay “Reclaiming Digression,” digression is “something we encounter along a formally composed, carefully networked route of discourse [that] takes hold of our attention, attracting us not by how adroitly it contributes to the development of the argument, for it is rarely an element of argumentation, but by how powerfully it arrests us in its own form, its own point, its own argument within an argument. Imagination is evident when we devilishly wander off to enjoy an element for its own sake and not for its immediate service to the larger work.” Just as a map does not always bring us to the most exciting place, digression can thrust us into a space of the unknown, the unfamiliar, a place that is unexpected and perhaps even a bit frightening simply because it is alien. Within digression lie the hidden stories, those that only come to light by an act of moving away from ‘the subject at hand’—whether that is a conversation topic that one wishes to avoid or the entire accepted canon of literature or fine art.
In post-modern fiction, authors use digression as a way of distancing the reader from the fiction and creating a greater sense of play. In the same way, the artists in this show each use digression in their work as a means of preventing the traditional linear functioning of fiction’s illusions and as textual and literary modes of approach to cultural and feminine analysis. The exhibition Digression at Hendershot Gallery takes its title from an interview with artist Kara Walker in which she says “I’m sorry. I just digress. That’s all I do.” The artists in this show access the hidden stories of their cultures and their identities through digression, pulling their viewers away from the fiction inherent in social norms and enabling us to interact, even play, without the proverbial map. We follow their alternative paths away from the general and end up somewhere we never expected to be: surprised, destabilized. Schor makes the point that “generalizing is an act of aggression. In fact, the connection between digression and aggression is often more than incidental; every digression violates the reader’s” –or, in this case, the viewer’s—“habit and intent, at the same time that it fulfills the possibility of a rendezvous with the devil.” We invite the viewers of Digression to be flexible, imaginative ‘readers’ of the show, to take pleasure in the danger and risk of “limitless aside,” to “arrest and apprehend ideas hitherto unconnectable, [to act] out of an unconscious indiscretion that is a kind of exhilarating free fall in an otherwise determined universe.” Digressers are like dreamers, creating imaginative acts without censors. Here, in the realm of digression, anything is possible.
Chitra Ganesh was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, where she currently lives and works. Her drawing, installation, text-based work, and collaborations seek to excavate and circulate buried narratives typically excluded from official canons of history, literature, and art. Ganesh graduated from Brown University magna cum laude with a BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics in1996. In 2001 she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and received her MFA from Columbia University in 2002. Ganesh’s work has been exhibited widely at venues including the Brooklyn Museum, the Queens Museum of Art, the Asia Society, Bronx Museum of Art, Exit Art, White Columns, Momenta Art, and Apex Art in New York. International venues include the Gawngju Art Museum in Korea, Fondazione Sandretto in Italy, Nature Morte in New Dehli, Montehermoso Center in Spain, ZKM in Germany, and the Royal College of Art in London. Her works have been featured in several publications including the New York Times, Flash Art, Art Asia Pacific, and Time Out New York. Ganesh has been awarded grants from the College Art Association, New York Foundation for the Arts, Astraea Visual Arts Fund, New York Community Trust, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Grant, and residencies include Headland Center for the Arts (2005), The Center for Books Arts, Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program (2006), Art Omi (2007), and Smack Mellon Studios (2008).
Liz Magic Laser was born, lives and works in New York City. She recently attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture residency program and the LMCC Workspace residency program. She earned an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Wesleyan University. Her recent solo show at Derek Eller Gallery, chase, was reviewed by The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Artforum.com, N + 1 and Art Review. Laser’s performance Flight recently debuted at MoMA PS1 and she will continue developing this project with a Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art grant. Her work has been shown at New York venues including Southfirst, Sue Scott, Smack Mellon, The Art Production Fund and is currently included in Greater New York 2010 at MoMA PS1. Laser has also exhibited internationally at NT art gallery (Bologna, Italy), Karlin Hall for the Prague Biennale 4 (Czech Republic) and the Georgian National Museum for Artisterium 2009 (Tbilisi, Georgia). Laser’s video work has been screened at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Texas), White Box (New York), the New Museum (New York) and the Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv.
Simone Leigh is an artist living and working in New York. Her work investigates tropes of the ethnographic object, the black body and labor by using materials associated with 3rd wave Feminism and the global black liberation movement. Her work eschews the tidy reductivism of post-colonial discourse, though recent hybrid sculptural works evoke Pan-Africanist symbol systems and celestial motifs associated with Afro-Futurism. Leigh’s obsessive process and the “natural” materials employed in her work, parallel the iconographic development of various histories central to the formation of contemporary black identity. By remaining conscious of the economic and social connotations of her sculptural forms, Leigh not only evokes an underlying history of colonialism, but she also reminds us of its presence in an art world that continues to coolly reject any reminders of the world outside of its self. Leigh has exhibited internationally at venues including Sculpture Center and The Kitchen (New York), L’Appartement22 (Rabat, Morocco) The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburg, PA) and the AVA Gallery, (Cape Town, South Africa). She has held residencies at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Bronx Museum’s Artist In the Marketplace program, and is the recipient of a grant from the Art Matters Foundation. Her work has been written about in Modern Painters, The New York Times, Small Axe and the anthology Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot.” Leigh’s most recent solo show, In Transit, debuted in 2009 at Sculpture Center, Queens NY. In the fall of 2010, Leigh will participate in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Artist in Residence program.
Divya Mehra is a multimedia artist who recently earned an MFA from Columbia University in New York. She obtained her BFA with Honors from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art. In her practice she explores issues of cultural displacement and hybridization, deploying a humorous perspective in the execution of the works. Her work has been included in a number of exhibitions and screenings across North America and overseas, most notably at The Queens Museum of Art and The Guild Art Gallery (New York, U.S.A.), the Beijing 798 Biennale (Beijing, China), Plug In ICA (Winnipeg, Canada), The Images Festival and A Space (Toronto, Canada), Groupe Intervention Video (Montreal, Canada), and Gallery OED (Cochin, India). Mehra currently divides her time between Winnipeg and New York City.
Justine Reyes lives and works in New York. In 2004 she received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her BFA from Syracuse University in 2000. Reyes’ work revolves around issues of identity, history, and time; and our relationship to these themes in a post-9/11 world. Using photography and installation, she examines family, the idea of leaving and returning home, and the longing to hold onto things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature. Reyes has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including at Proyecto Circo at the 8th Havana Biennial, Cuba; Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey; the Queens International 4 at the Queens Museum of Art, New York, in 2009; and the Humble Arts Foundation’s 31 Women in Art Photography in New York in 2010. She was an Artist in Residence at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, NY in 2008 and exhibited the series Vanitas there in 2010. Reyes was recently awarded the Juror’s Choice Award from the Center’s project competition, a workspace residency from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) for 2009-2010 and Visiting Scholar status at New York University.
Kenya (Robinson) is a self-taught artist from Gainesville, Florida. Inspired by a rich social community, her work is influenced by the use of mass consumer items as art material. A resident of Brooklyn, NY she is expanding her studio practice to include site-specific installation, printmaking, and sound-performance art. Her debut exhibition, HAIRPOLITIC: The Pursuit of Nappiness, was featured at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in 2008. A current resident of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s WorkSpace residency, recipient of a Brooklyn Arts Council Re-Grant, and funded by the Hudson Country Office of Art and Culture (for her curatorial work: AfricanAmericana), she continues to explore various modes of creativity.
Mary A. Valverde is an MFA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts, NY in 1999. Her work has been included in the group exhibitions; Hairtactics, Jersey City Museum, NJ; Arbitrariness of Signs, Momenta Gallery, NY; and Rompe Puesto, Bronx River Arts, NY in 2010. Figure 8, El Museo del Barrio, NY; Untitled (Land-scape), Abrons Art Center, NY; Mappings and Transformations, Corridor Gallery, NY; and Cumanana, Saltworks Gallery, NY in 2009. Work Space, Cuchifritos Gallery, NY in 2008. S-Files 2007, El Museo del Barrio, NY; Emerge 8, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, NJ; and Scorpius, ACP Gallery, CA in 2007. Queens International 2006 Everything All At Once, Queens Museum of Art, NY; Tropicalisms, Jersey City Museum, NJ; and Fragmentations of the Self, Rush Arts Gallery, NY in 2006. Mary has participated in Emerge 8 program at Aljira, Center for Contemporary Art in 2006 and was artist in residence at the Rotating Work Space Program at Artist Alliance Residency, NY in 2008. Mary was born and raised in NYC where she currently lives and works.