“Inventive Disorientation”: Katy and Matthew Fischer at Louis B. James
Katy and Matthew Fischer: Lost and Found at Louis B. James
March 24 to May 1, 2016
143b Orchard Street (between Delancey and Rivington)
New York, 212 533 4670
In their two-person installation at Louis B. James Matthew and Katy Fischer have created pieces that evoke another time and place, one that does not and cannot exist. While Matthew’s paintings attempt to capture the complexity of an impossible environment in representation, Katy’s ceramics suggest a whole that is not real. These are works that aggregate, excavate, and re-collect the indifferent details of today and yesterday, and that also re-imagine them in a playful and inventive disorientation.
Functioning as vibrant windows, the bright, unadulterated colors of Matthew’s paintings are points of natural illumination in the austere whiteness of the gallery. In canvases suffused with swiftly applied swaths, atmosphere is communicated in simplicity. The linear division between two blocks of paint serves to illustrate a horizon and convey the sensorial saturation of a landscape. These abstract compositions are ambiguous cross-sections of the natural world in which our perspective is never made clear; viewers are left with the uncertainty of whether we are in it or on it, above it or below it. Nothing can be as it should, as you expect it, in a representation of landscape where the horizon is made vertical.
The artist exploits the spatial coding of found materials to disrupt the comfortable aloofness of the gallery space. Paris, 1907 (2015) engages viewers corporeally by pressing a chair seat, the place meant to hold a body, against the wall, as one’s actual, upright flesh exists as floor in relation to the chair’s legs. A painted canvas is suspended from the bottom limbs, presenting a slanting line between straw-yellow and a cool brown. A window onto a sloping hill? Turned earth? An abstract painting? Self (knowledge) and for Cathy (both 2016) provide a more generous contrast to the sense of inversion created by Paris, 1907, opening onto the viewer in a way that evokes action; spines of books prompt one to read, a mirror presents the opportunity to view the work and the gallery from a position otherwise impossible. Altogether, these painted structures are simultaneously spacious and claustrophobic, engaging a viewer’s physical presence while subtly dominating the gallery’s limited space. Rather than existing as an oppressive force, however, these sculptural works present fragmented images, flattened awkwardly into a confusion of fleeting sensations and orientations.
While Matthew’s paintings recode the gallery in relation to a viewer’s body, Katy’s ceramics discourage interaction. Although painstaking in their idiosyncrasy and handmade precision, these miniature works resist the viewer’s temptation to slip them easily into a pocket or to handle them absentmindedly between thumb and forefinger. The components of the Shards (2016) series demand care and attention for their own preservation but also for yours; implications of intimacy are interrupted by fine points and rigid forms. Arranged in systems that are suggestive of an order that is not revealed, these various pieces come together as a puzzle that lacks direct correspondence.
Katy’s ceramic compositions layer the unexceptional relics of daily life with the overbearing operations of exhibition.The fragments, some recognizable, others invented, are a confusion of scale in which figures reminiscent of a miniature traffic cone and a scaled-down scythe are placed beside those of a solitary die, a fishing hook and a screw. In spite of their familiarity, these recognizable pieces are given no pride of place above the unrecognizable geometric slivers and chips that cluster in the spaces between. These ceramic objects adhere to the logics of sea glass and arrowheads, serving a purpose that has since been forgotten or made obsolete. Presented in rows on pedestals or on a wood-and-Plexi vitrine — in manners particular to museums with their attendant overtones of classification and determination — the ceramic components seek to preserve that which is not precious. There is a certain illogic to creating objects that are never meant to be complete, especially ones such as these that seem to memorialize the litter of contemporary urban spaces in a medium that could endure for centuries.
In both bodies, the mode of presentation comes as a point of rupture rather than stability in the relationship between the works and the space that they occupy. In suggestive symbolism and their rootedness elsewhere, these ceramics and paintings fit uncomfortably in the gallery, drawing attention to the unreality and emptiness of such a space. In the awkwardness of their occupation, these works provide the viewer with an escape route into the impossible space that they themselves are dreaming of.