Carol Szymanski: Pissin’ Against the Wind, or, Sketches of the Mental Drain on the Dead Banker April 26 – May 26, 2012
Carol Szymanski’s new exhibition shows the artist continuing to work with language as visual and semantic material. She has a particular interest in visual symbols representing speech and in how meaning is depicted in changing contexts. Szymanski sees herself as a kind of translator. Language is transmuted (re-interpreted) through a wide variety of media and materials so that new ways of reading can emerge. Her work often incorporates readymades along with her own constructions and texts.
In this exhibition the works include vellum wall sculptures and others in the form of reduced-scale designer suits, both bearing poetic texts derived from Szymanski’s ongoing email project, cockshut dummy, which started in 2004 while she was working as an investment banker. The texts in the show focus on the years 2008-2009 when the global financial sector experienced an unprecedented crisis. In response, the content of the texts began to focus mainly on ideas about transparency and the lack of it, disillusionment and a sense of futility, and a lowering of expectations.
This body of work is dramatic departure for Szymanski, whose work in the past has often engaged with language at the smallest unit of meaning, the phoneme. Now we find intense autobiographical content, however obliquely presented, that also evokes important ongoing changes in society. The work questions the structures and organization of corporate capitalism from an insider’s view and reflects the hidden disillusionment and alienation among those who work to maintain it.
Also on view are three neon signs, one of them a readymade with a quotation from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Another neon is juxtaposed with a large hand-blown glass sculpture which resembles both a woman’s torso and a perfume. The show also incorporates brass horns created by the artist in her own font as well as a group of charcoal drawings that appear to be configured in an abstract form but all contain variations on the word “stand.”
Carol Szymanski is an internationally exhibited artist who has been the recipient of the Rome Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, among others. This is her first exhibition with Guided by Invoices.