Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last chance to see: "Figuration" & Lynne Avadenka @ Lemberg Gallery

Ed Fraga, She Bore His Child, Then She Bore Witness, 2010, oil on canvas stretched over birch panel. (Photo: Tim Thayer. This and all other images courtesy of the artists and Lemberg Gallery.)
A pair of pretty nice shows are closing this Saturday, February 26, at Lemberg Gallery in Ferndale. The first, "Figuration," is a group show of gallery regulars, which as title says explores various musings on the human form. It's mostly of a postmodern bent, with irony and ennui generally ruling the day. Cranbrook fiber department artist-in-residence Mark Newport continues his deconstruction of masculinity with a series hand-knitted costumes for an anti-superhero action figure named Inaction Man. A couple of recent Cranbrook grads similarly mix up lowbrow culture references with artworld savoir faire. G. Bradley Rhodes presents two intricately constructed collages that draw on the lexicon of retro and vernacular illustration while Heather Blackwell paints portraits of "beat" young hipsters in the now venerable tradition of "bad" painting.

A note of sincerity is sounded by my fellow Kresge Fellow Ed Fraga whose 2010 painting She Bore His Child, Then She Bore Witness is the star of the show. The painting, imbued with enigma as Fraga's work always is, conjures up a scene of psychological abjection. (The trauma, as Julia Kristeva notes in Powers of Horror, associated with "the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be," in other words, birth and the separation from the mother in the expulsion from the sanctuary of the womb). On the left a narrow ladder leads up from the ground to a hut about to be engulfed in flames. Issuing from the doorway is what appears to be a dialog balloon whose text is obliterated, an image of repressed memories or, following Kristeva, the inability to articulate a distinct identity. On the right a female body is shown truncated at the waist, genitalia clearly rendered with the legs dissipating from modeled flesh to roughly sketched in contour. In the place where the abdomen should be, a boy's head is grafted. It's an uncanny and compelling image.

G. Bradley Rhodes, The Research Assistant, 2010, acrylic and graphite on paper collaged on canvas.
Heather Blackwell, Molly, 2010, oil on canvas.

The Project Room features four new works by fellow Kresge Fellow Lynne Avadenka inspired by the book of Ecclesiastes. Each contains a particular passage, "One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever." Each piece incorporates a variety of graphic arts techniques from brush calligraphy to letterpress typefonts and dingbats to the electric typewriter, the latter of which is used to create snaking lines of run-together letters that delineate relationships of figure and ground. The works use traditional woodblock printing to map out larger areas of space, with the grain of the matrix recorded in fine detail. Individual sheets are collaged onto cloth-covered boards, which are fashioned together into screens that are unfolded to stand on their own. The horizontal format is inspired by Japanese landscape screens and according to the artist play on the notion that the objects reveal as they conceal.

One might be tempted to interpret the work as somehow engaging in a kind of eco-consciousness, but I think Avadenka is gesturing toward something more profound. Her work has always been on some level about art's role in sustaining a relationship to loss, of acknowledging that while our individual existence is contingent and fleeting, the cosmos is more enduring and yet also more mysterious. This idea can be seen as well in language, which preexists our entry into the world and continues on presumably long after we have left it. What's more, one of the lessons of semiotics is that signification is a continual process of deferral, of the sign substituting for the thing to which it refers, revealing and concealing, setting up an endless chain of possible and occluded meanings that has no clear-cut beginning or end. This deferral is further evidenced in Avadenka's new art by her disinclination to designate which view of the screen is the front and which is the back. Signifier and signified are continually at play in this work as it always is in the best art.

Lynne Avadenka, Comes And Goes III, 2010 (one side), relief printing, lithograph, typewriting on mixed media. (Avadenka  photos: R.H. Hemsleigh.)
Lynne Avadenka, Comes and Goes III (the other side).
Lynne Avadenka, Comes and Goes VI, 2010 (one side), relief and letterpress printing, typewriting on mixed media.
Lynne Avadenka, Comes and Goes VI (the other side).

"Figuration" and Lynne Avadenka, Project Room, are on view at Lemberg Gallery until Saturday, February 26. Call 248 591 6623 for information.

No comments:

Post a Comment