Fine Line Workshop
April 5 – May 24 2012
Art gallery Dorsoduro – via Dorsoduro 2793/a Venice
FINE LINE does double duty as a title. It not only refers to the meticulous technical skill of the featured artists, their clear and decisive lines—therefore a literal understanding of the words—but it also highlights a more profound connection amongst the works by way of its popular application: in English, “fine line” is a term one uses to express the nearly indiscernible difference between two competing or seemingly distant concepts such as madness and genius, love and hate. Workshop FINE LINE a group exhibition curated by Leslie Rosa, featuring painting, drawing and sculpture by artists Diann Bauer, Francesco Igory Deiana, Micah Ganske, Langdon Graves, Evan Gruzis, Robert Lazzarini, Colette Murphy and Colette Robbins.Taking as a starting point the notion of consensus reality—that reality is what the majority agrees seems to exist—this exhibition is interested in the fine line between the real and the unreal, between the reasonable and the absurd. And, it is precisely because these works are at the intersection of both the denotation and the connotation of the show’s title that they are able to confront our accepted order of thought and perception with such success. For it is through the artists’ immaculate craft, their flawless execution of reality, that the distortion of it strikes us with such force and provides us with the opportunity to critically inspect how our perception of that reality is constructed.In his disorientating sculpture Skull, Robert Lazzarini not only disfigures the object, but also our experience of the object in space, leaving us with a phenomenological puzzle to solve. The warped skull, so vividly rendered and, in fact, even made from cast bone, greets and confronts our conventional channels of visual recognition. We know what it is and yet it eludes a complete reality check. This interruption to our senses is further accentuated by the play on dimensionality. Upon approaching the work, which is installed against a white wall, it is unclear whether the object is flat or three dimensional. Our eyes try to focus, but to no avail, which lead our bodies to move around the object—a dance of attempted reconciliation that becomes part of the work. Guard dog sign, which functions in part like Skull, stems from the artist’s increasing interest in exploring the subtext of violence and criminality in American culture.
Philia and Neikos, the two drawings by Langdon Graves, are both born from the pre-Socratic philosophy of Empedocles’ as described in his treatise on the origin of the universe On Nature. This cosmogenic poem outlines his belief that all matter exists in continual state of union (philia) and separation (neikos), love and strife, order and chaos; “Such is the nature of all things, to be part of a whole and also to split into parts,” he wrote. Graves takes these theories as a jumping off point to explore her practice’s fascination with the way in which we see and perceive things. The eye and the speculum in Philia serve as a metaphor for the creation and control over reality, while also illustrating the inversion of that reality (speculum in latin means “mirror”). The scissors in Neikos, on the other hand, are symbolic of the dual condition of being whole and split apart.
This interest in our prelapsarian history is also central to Francesco Igory Deiana’s artistic practice. His ballpoint drawings often invoke the confrontation between our constructed socio-political reality with a more primitive and unrestrained one through their monochromatic nature and through the juxtaposition and melting together of sharp geometric patterns and organic elements. However, through Deiana’s frequent use of masks, as seen in Precious Thinking, and the confounding dimensionality of the works owed to their optical illusion-like effects, the works seem to begin to reconcile or at least blur the primitive and the domesticated aspects of the human condition.
In her sculpture Mausoleum for the Reality-Based Community, Diann Bauer underlines the danger of alternative realities when they are conceived by self-seeking, mercenary minds. The sculpture mourns the loss of communities that believe political solutions actualize through the understanding and studying of our discernable reality, the likes of which are being replaced by imperial, self-called reality-creators—those who have the political and financial power to alter the playing field. With Get Rich, Bauer underlines the frenzied spectacle of contemporary political discourse through her cramming and overlapping of real and exaggerated slogans from both the left and right side of the political spectrum.
The graphite paintings by Colette Robbins are part of a body of work entitled The Head Exchange. In this series, Robbins is interested in highlighting the importance of the immaterial, psychological bonds between human beings, which she achieves through rendering them as solid relics carved in stone. In some works these relationships are depicted as monoliths that harken the mystery of Stone Henge or the statues of Easter Island (as we see in The Watch Tower), while in others, they appear as more intimate findings, giving us the sensation of being an archaeologist on an excavation (as with The Head Exchange: Cab). In fact, the process Robbins uses to prepare the final work, a complex combination of photography, digital manipulation, drawing and sculpture, beautifully corresponds to the passage of time and layers of earth so present in the narrative of these works.
Micah Ganske’s painting Tomorrow Land: Cheshire Ohio comes from an ongoing series in which the artist portrays American towns and landscapes that have become victims to industrialization and its negative side effects. In this case, Cheshire is a town that was recently abandoned by its residents after the pollution from the power plant forced the company to buy out the town for millions of dollars. While the works seem to highlight, in a quite straightforward manner, the calamities that occur when technology and nature come into contact (further pronounced by the menacing shadows cast on the depicted landscapes), their soft coloring allows them to be interpreted as both a distant memory and a vision of the future slowly coming into focus. A remembrance or a warning, we cannot be sure.
There is a similar effect in Endurance II, Colette Murphy’s painting of a ship suspended on a naked canvas. The work recalls—or perhaps predicts—a postdiluvian world. However, whether a surviving relic from the past or future, for Murphy the ship is meant to be a sign of hope: the continuation of human kind is assured. In the drawings The Acrobat and Astronaut, Murphy is interested in exploring the effects of physical and psychological suspensions—something accentuated particularly with the astronaut, who once having seen Earth from space has a perception of the world much different than our own. The physical experience, therefore, dictates a new way of perceiving reality.
In his seductive, pop-noir works-on-paper, Evan Gruzis toys with both the viewer’s recognition and cognition through his ambiguous references to pop cultural icons. By keeping these references general and devoid of any particular meaning, the viewer is confronted with the strange phenomenon of identifying and perhaps even appreciating an image without being able to make sense of it. Gruzis likes to give a wink-and-nod to this effect—that is, the predetermined way in which human brains perceive, recall and experience visual information—in the works themselves. In 16:9, for example, Gruzis formats the work based on the most popular aspect ratio for televisions and computer monitors. In ROM boy, meanwhile, he references read-only memory (ROM), a type of data storage that can be read and accessed but not changed—similar to our long-term memories.
Image above: Robert lazzarini - Skul
Tomorrow Land Cheshire Ohio
Mausoleum for the Reality Based Community