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Storytellers in the Post-Style Era

November 10 - Jan 14



 

Artists are storytellers who craft with matter rather than stringing words. How curious that we revel in the distinctive style of writers, but historically, we have judged artists by their adherence to a dominant style - until very recently. After decades of postmodern theory, hegemony has fallen, and artists have been freed of the yoke of the contemporary idiom. This anarchic freedom has left us searching for the familiar comfort of a coherent plot in the amorphous and experimental wanderings of the tribe of artists. In my quest to satisfy our wont, this exhibition creates a framework, a forum for a motley cast of artists who each travel wildly different stylistic paths.

The central conceit of the exhibition is that each artist constructs their story in the same format; not as a book, nor on a canvas, but brought to life in the form of a small, level surfaced, floor-standing sculpture, one that may be used as a table. Within this framework, a common struggle becomes apparent, and a meta-narrative emerges. A consistent protagonist and antagonist reveal themselves in the roles of "the Physical" and "the Immaterial", and their plotline follows the transmogrification of material, process, and technique into symbols, meaning, and history. The unfolding of this synthesis is our story.

 

 

There are only two kinds of stories; those that are experienced and those that are told. Stories are told only two ways: around the fire or on the cave walls. Stories are spoken, or they are recorded. A recoded story is experienced anew through the act of deciphering its symbols. Similarly, a talented storyteller allows you to experience the story secondhand by manipulating a broad range of tools. Theatre and film attest powerfully to extra-verbal stories told with visual, physical, and auditory prompts. Stories may be an elaborate odyssey or a meager haiku; fantastically florid and laboriously layered, or brutally economical. Indeed, a story may be manifested in as little as an object whose material and form reveal a process that tells of being made, tempting you to imagine how it came into existence and teasing you with hinted answers. These ‘embodied’ stories are perhaps didactic, definitely deductive, and certainly wonderous for their ability to flower in our minds. With the myriad form that stories may take, telling them is, unquestionably, an art.

In this exhibition, nine artists of distinct style tell stories that are framed by the approach each one takes to the primary elements of the physical and the immaterial. They loosely divide into two camps based upon which of the two elements are either emphasized or originating. In the camp of the physical, the heroes of this exhibition are Elyse Graham with her resin marquetry and terrazzo processes, and Tessa Silva manipulating her historical chalk and milk compound. Both celebrate their unusual synthetic materials and unique technical processes to fantastical effects. In the camp of the immaterial we have Bertrand Charlot with his dense, character-driven imagery expediently executed with computer assisted output, and Kate Rohde expressively hand-sculpting confections concocted of baroque symbolic imagery in a bricolage of synthetic materials. In the rich middle we have Rachel David and Trey Jones leveraging skilled techniques and idiosyncratic themes in more traditional materials of metal and wood. While Rachel’s Pollinator series references Art Nouveau and Brutalism she also nods to Albert Paley while engaging imagery that champions cooperation and inclusivity. Trey, meanwhile, echoes the Memphis movement while paying homage to Wendell Castle with his stack laminated recovered waste wood carved into symbolic forms.

The visual cacophony of clashing imagery and disparate material within the exhibition appears chaotic but highlights the shared struggle to wrestle a material and hone a meaningful form. The simple moral is a revelation that wordsmiths have known all along: Story trumps style.

- Damon Crain

 

 

 

Exhibiting Work By

Elyse Graham, USA (OR)
Kate Rohde, AU
Megan Enright, USA (CA)
Rachel David, USA (NC)
Tessa Silva, UK

Bertrand Charlotte, FR
Daniel Wiener, USA (NY)
Trey Jones, USA (VA)
Steve Shaheen, USA (NY)