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Phases – co-curated by Kelly Taxter and Wallspace


Wallspace Gallery
619 West 27th Street, ground floor, 212-594-9478
January 13 - February 11, 2012
Web Site

Thea Djordjadze Anthea Hamilton Sanya Kantarovsky Alex Kwartler Hugh Scott-Douglas Daniel Sinsel Lisa Williamson

Phases is a group show co-curated by Kelly Taxter and Wallspace, who have brought together artworks by Thea Djordjadze, Anthea Hamilton, Sanya Kantarovsky, Alex Kwartler, Hugh Scott-Douglas, Daniel Sinsel and Lisa Williamson. These artists represent a wide range of approaches to be thought of as points along a line, the origin of which is formalism and whose terminus is narrative figuration. Simultaneously exhibiting such extremes and what lies between, reveals an over-arching commonality these artists share in their search to define and undermine form, a kind of cyclical deconstructivism that allows a study in material and line to share critical and physical space with the insinuation of narrative. Phases seeks to intuitively navigate how one can leap from one stone to the next, and in so doing, hope to understand the water beneath.

Georgian born, Berlin-based artist Thea Djordjadze’s His Vanity Requires No Response, 2011, is a sprawling floor-bound sculpture made during her residency at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in early 2011. Working in a typical mode she fashioned plaster, wire, and burlap, together with materials sourced from local architectural salvage yards, to construct a low-lying, theatrical arrangement of objects and elements that appear at once coming together and falling apart. Four sculptural forms, which split the difference between formalism and surrealism, seem to be in a confrontational dialog, set apart from each other across overlapped sections of degraded carpet. As in her work at large, in this piece Djordjadze uses an historical touchstone, marking T.S. Eliot’s epic poem The Wasteland as a place from which to explore notions of time, abstraction, and decay within the temporal present. In this sense her work operates within the realm of nostalgia, it lies between then and now, speaking subtly of narratives that feel on the tip of one’s tongue but are never entirely illuminated.

London-based Anthea Hamilton includes a new work titled Leg Chair (Sorry I’m Late), 2011. This frontally oriented sculpture features her signature cutout leg motif, the limbs arranged in a plié formation centered around a Plexiglas, brass-hinged butterfly frame atop a piston-like cylindrical form. Clearly evocative of the lower half of the female body, the legs themselves modeled after the artist’s own, Leg Chair oscillates between being an overtly sexual and purely formal investigation of objects. The artist notes that positioning the artwork thus forces the viewer to be both a salacious co-conspirator and a prudish observer. The hinge that separates the spread legs acts as a symbol of Hamilton’s ability to imbue her work with a series of potentialities: the work’s construction evokes movement as much as it’s elements represent contrasting narrative points. Hamilton’s apologetic title demurs her choice of both/and; rather than fix her work, she demands that much like the body itself, it remains both rigid and mutable.

Russian born, Los Angeles-based artist Sanya Kantarovsky’s richly hued yet muted paintings in blues, grays, and greens draw upon both personal and collective experience, and suggest fragments of history, memory, and narrative. Kantarovksy’s paintings frequently embrace a cartoon-like efficiency in portraying the affect of a human figure, framing representation within formal devices that point back to the site of the objects own making. Combing a wide range of influences that range from the “high” culture of art and literature to the “low” of cartoons, animation and design, the artist probes discrepancies between the divergent art histories of Eastern Europe and the West. Empty pages, vacated modernist buildings, feathers, melodramatic, lonely figures and mannered expressive marks teeter on the edge of banality yet create a distinct language – a system of puns and allegories to the dilemmas of the creative process. Through these signs and art historical cues, the artist touches upon the uncertain meanings of beauty, history and the author’s den itself, complete with an un-inked feather and a blank page.

New York-based Alex Kwartler has recently begun work on a series of large-scale, plaster paintings on plywood, evidencing a distinct move away from the diminutive, meticulous, and long-labored paintings he is well known for. The size of the new pieces is dictated by the standard construction plywood sheets they’re made upon. Similarly, the pigment-tinted plaster the artist brushes on the surface occurs via a process entirely dominated by the material’s characteristics, which force Kwartler to work quickly and disallows revisions of any kind. The finished pieces have the glossy surface of burnished plaster, with gradient hues of green, purple, and red, floating upon a softly grey, unifying background. The marks are direct representations of brush, material, time and surface itself. While the paintings yield to the viewer in unexpected ways and at different speeds they return back to its elements: material, tool, surface, mark, color and space. One cannot escape a deeper investigation into the mechanics of the medium when confronted with these paintings.

Toronto-based Hugh Scott-Douglas’ creates painterly effects through non-painterly means, while also undermining many tenets of the medium by exposing his paintings to chance conditions and mechanized processes. In Scott-Douglas’ words “I have begun exploring the fraught relationship between image ground and material support, while simultaneously engaging questions of authorship, production, reception and display. At once visually alluring and materially specific, these works ultimately unfold as an open-ended system that always gestures towards new iterations.” The works on view are made using an industrial laser cutter that translates photographs of his previous works into an algorithm cut directly into gessoed linen.

German born, London-based artist Daniel Sinsel’s intimate, handcrafted paintings and sculptures explore classical themes of space, perspective and trompe l’oeil, using a range of traditional techniques and materials from casein to raw silk to fired terracotta. In the works included in Phases, Sinsel blends minimalist forms with his own personal iconography to create subtly suggestive works that point backwards toward the intricate process of their making, even as they maintain an ineffable, near-iconic presence. Grids, columns and linen weft appear as recurring motifs in Sinsel’s work, yet these substrates are rendered with such painstaking, almost meditative attention that the forms seem sublimely transmogrified – the eroticized materials competing with the sometimes repressed or otherwise articulated eroticism of his subjects.

Los Angeles-based artist Lisa Williamson’s works quietly assert themselves in the space between the painted and sculpted form. Using materials such as steel painted with such lushness that it approximates rubber, or folded into a paper-like accordion, Williamson’s objects are imbued with a whimsical theatricality, seeming to allude to a story at the same time as they draw attention back to the details of their making. For Phases, Williamson has contributed A Highly Articulate Step, 2011, a wall-mounted sculpture that unfurls from a pair of over-sized chopsticks – as though holding a woman’s bun in place – and cascades over an armature and onto the floor, stretching out into the gallery like an elongated tongue. The unfurling canvas is painted with a lexicon of self-generative pictographs, with one image generating the next like a run-on sentence. Williamson’s deceptively elegant work gets its heft from the comingling of linguistic, anthropomorphic and formal elements, where one thing seems always on the verge of becoming another.
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