Cross-Country Group Show: “Paper Route 66” at BravinLee
Paper Route 66 at BravinLee Programs
May 28 to Jul 18, 2015
526 West 26th Street, Suite 211 (between 11th and 10th avenues)
New York, 212 462 4406
The woven, the embossed, the embedded and the laminated: upon viewing “Paper Route 66,” one felt a bit like Carl Linnaeus trying to develop a taxonomy for works on paper in the year 2015. The summer group show at BravinLee Programs featured six sub-curated spaces of artists from around America: Houston, Pittsburgh, Miami, Detroit, New Orleans and Baltimore. While the show was too small and neat to allow for the consideration of larger questions like “Is regionalism dead in the Internet age” or “Is there a new American style?” the 20 artists and 26 works did present the confusing array of methodologies and processes that continue to complicate the increasingly non-literal categorization “work on paper.” It also gave a pleasant taste of each curator’s/curatorial group’s taste in choosing works.
Phillip Pyle’s Super Huey (2015) and Mark Ponder’s Jim Jones is Awesome (2015) presented a pair of portraits in Houston curator Paul Middendorf’s selection. Starting off the exhibition with these two heads — Huey’s in a bulbous cosmic helmet printed on glossy metallic paper while Jones a barely registered face receding into the space of the off-white paper — immediately gave the show a totemic mystical bent. This was bolstered by Devan Shimoyama’s Shadow (2014-15), a sparkling, glitter-covered pair of heads breathing rainbows and exuding galaxies, chosen by Amanda Donnan and Kim Beck from Pittsburgh. These were the only faces, but hero-worship was invoked by Spider Man and Gulls (2015) a six-part composition that posited an abstracted Spidey in the lower left-hand corner and played off that theme in a series of abstractions, by Stephen Booth and Jordan Bernier, chosen by curator Freddy, of Baltimore.
The work on paper inhabits a conflicted interstitial space; it lingers between finished piece and study, between experiment and pared-down iteration of larger works for which the artist is known. Corey Escoto, chosen by Pittsburgh’s Amanda Donnan and Kim Beck, contributed a delightful little muted geometric composition on Polaroid, Grid and Gob (2015), which resembled some sort of not-too-distant-future cocktail, a very nice evocation of his larger and more sublime sculptures and installations.
Next to Escoto in the Pittsburgh section was a quietly engrossing relief etching by Delanie Jenkins, Untitled (from the traces of absorption series) (2005-2006), a piece that plays on the ever-present patterns contained on the sheets of ultra-absorbent paper-towels, but shifts the designs into an off-kilter gear that results in a disquieting hallucinogenic sensation. Also capitalizing on the manipulation of texture are two prints from the Object Print Collection (I, IV, 2014) by Jessie Vogel, chosen by Amy Mackie of New Orleans, where the deep reliefs left by the collagraphy process imbue the paper with an almost object-like presence. Megan Heeres, chosen by Detroit curator Jennifer Junkermeier, reverses this process by embedding two circular thin metal chains (“found jewelry”) into handmade paper in A Certain Slant of Light (number 2) (2014). The foreign matter is not only described by its color and how it bulges through the tissue, but in the oxidation process initiated by the paper-making process itself: brown rust blooms form around the metallic elements. Slam Dunk, Madras, and Port (all 2015) by Justin Long, chosen by Amanda Sanfilippo of Miami, brings the operation full circle by dispensing completely with paper and drawing implement and instead sews series of acute isosceles triangles into a variety of fabrics. The fragile lines of twine play off the solidity of the red in Port and the quirky plaid in Madras and remain very much drawings.
Of actual recognizable drawings, there are a few. Sanfilippo-chosen artist Cara Despain presents two drawings Shallow (2001) and Belvedere [Birdcage] (2009), with narrative architectural fantasies, meticulously drawn, and toned and dusty with graphite. Despain utilizes wallpaper patterns and rococo silhouettes to visually frame and impose a composition on her surreal images of houses and garden vistas. While invoking a traditionalist sensibility by calling on these archaic forms, there is a literalness in the use of the wallpaper patterning that is much more contemporary — a kind of hand-drawn texture mapping. Jennifer Odem’s Table Study (2015), chosen by Amy Mackie, depicts a pair of enigmatic blobs placed squarely on a 12-legged schizophrenic table in a sort of fairy tale/fable-like visual composition, with spidery pencil lines and films and skeins of gouache reinforcing the fact that this is definitely a drawing. Oddly enough. Odem also employs the mimicry of a wallpaper/textile pattern on one of her blobs, and similarly to Despain’s drawing, the texture has a presence which seems disembodied from the rest of the image: again like a collage or texture mapped image. This pattern mimicry in these carefully drafted images leaves one with the impression that perhaps Odem and Despain are yearning for, or a bit jealous of, the tools being enjoyed by the other artists in “Paper Route 66.”