Psychological Environments: Daniel Gerwin and Eleanor King at 326 Gallery
Daniel Gerwin and Eleanor King: Dimensions Variable, curated by Brigitte Mulholland
June 1 to July 8, 2017
326 7th Avenue, New York, NY
What distinguishes the wooden slats running across a kitchen floor from those in a studio space or behind a construction site’s scaffolding wall? Dimensions Variable, curated by Brigitte Mulholland, challenges our conceptions of the domestic in relation to the world around us, addressing these separate functions as symbols of unique spaces. Eleanor King and Daniel Gerwin sliver their individual experiences of these environments and splice them together in a kaleidoscopic fashion.
Situated to the right of the gallery’s entrance, Daniel Gerwin’s amorphous paintings hang at various heights. They represent the artist’s refusal to adhere to traditional conventions of painting shape, size, depth, and presentation. Gerwin’s paintings incorporate moments of falsity and fabrication: Texture and mark-making impersonate architecture and adornments, suggesting domestic surfaces such as laminate wood slats or scuffed counter tops. This chaos is autobiographical for Gerwin, as he views these abstractions in relation to his experience of fatherhood.
Gerwin’s painting Two Kids and a Dog (2016) is hung low to the ground. Denial of standard hanging height operates beyond cheeky insubordination: The painting becomes a portal appropriately displayed for a child’s point of view. Refusal of convention is explored further with geometric abstraction coupled with layered panels and passages of squeegeed paint. Filled with contradictions, orderly geometric divisions pressing against the distorted picture plane provide reprieve from the piece’s otherwise chaotic composition. Jagged drawn sections and negative space (literally) cut out of the painting are combined on a multi-layered surface, emphasizing both implied and physical space. There is a constant push and pull between the layers of paint and the depth of the wood panel. Gerwin’s four neighboring paintings read similarly, acting as snapshots of his environment as a psychological space and energetic anecdotes about raising a child.
Situated parallel to Gerwin’s paintings is Eleanor King’s faux scaffolding wall, Undermine Everything (2017). Its green panels, as seen at construction sites across the city, symbolize cycles of development, renovation, and renewal, forming a shell that simultaneously signifies and masks an interior space during its metamorphosis. The text splayed across its surface is self-effacing, as the words “Undermine” and “Everything” are intertwined and italicized in opposite directions. The precision of the painted text starkly contrasts its intended message, which is either ironic or simply nonchalant about its own contradictions. Peppered throughout the exhibition are other text-based works that take a similar, if reduced, format as the larger green panels. Pieces reading “STANDFAST” and “TONIGHTS THE NIGHT” function in response to current events, specifically the obfuscation of information in a “post-truth” media environment.
The show’s installation produces a formal echo chamber between King’s solid green panels and the geometric sharpness of Gerwin’s variously shaped paintings, amplifying each artist’s unique way of looking at space. Eleanor King’s large installation, coupled with smaller text-based works, acts as a reflection of social transformation. The green construction walls are indicative of the constantly-shifting cultural dynamics of gentrification, development, and eviction.
Conversely, Daniel Gerwin’s paintings have an inward-looking, introverted aura. Still lively and energetic, his shaped artworks operate as a map of the domesticity of fatherhood as seen through the studio that now resides in his home. Dimensions Variable asks us to reassess the relationship between our physical environment, our psychological processing of it, and the larger cultural undercurrents shifting our inevitably ever-changing world.