Christopher Henry Gallery proudly presents Heidi Whitman: Shadowland, the artist’s premiere New York solo show. Whitman, a Boston based artist, was previously featured in the gallery’s acclaimed “Map As Art” 2009 exhibition, which coincided with the renowned book publication of the same name. Whitman’s technique involves painstakingly hand-cutting elaborate shapes out of painted paper. The artist’s intricate creations chart out a matrix of roads resembling modern city grids, which are evocative of spaces both seen and unseen. These multi-dimensional, delicate structures juxtapose flat well-defined surfaces with breaks in the sheets of paper, directing us into the intangible and otherworldly landscape of shadows, which the floating shapes cast.
Shadowland is a continuation of an ongoing theme, which was developed in the artist’s earlier “Brain Terrain” series. Whitman describes these paper constructions as “the structure of the city and the structure of the mind conflated”, drawing a parallel between the visual language prevalent in the cartography of our outward physical world and the inner workings of the body. This symbolic, gestural series charts an exploration into the brain’s elaborate network of neurons, a system that enables us to navigate our mind’s perspectives, experiences, memories and other grey matter. Whereas a traditional map is flat, predictable and easy to follow, Whitman’s web-like constructions depict organic, often convoluted routes and impossible intersections. We are led along a meandering path that encompasses the interplay of positive and negative space, and prompts the viewer to contemplate the defining edges where the separation between the absence and presence of light occurs. The intriguing effect is a world that is a combination of what is neither here nor there, simultaneously solid and tenuous.
A quality unique to Whitman’s maps is the element of chance, which provides a timely theme, drawing a comparison between the shifting of the geographical landscape and the fragility and transitory nature of human emotions. The ethereal quality of the network of soft shadows vs. sharp silhouettes creates a dialogue of what is real or imagined, and a study of what is finite or immeasurable.