Two of the most exciting works were those by Brooklyn-based artist Chris Martin: the glitter-bombed Untitled (2008-2010) and lumpy Landscape (Bumps) (2009). These captivating pieces create dizzyingly strange forms that refuse to be understood or associated; yet they are somehow still decoratively pleasing. In almost all of the works of the show, there is an incorporation of “high” and “low” materials, like with Martin’s neon spray paint or Cordy Ryman’s incorporation of house paint stir sticks in his artfully cobbled piece, Sparks (2013). This material “hybrid, in between space” is what curator and artist Laurel Sparks took interest in for finding the artworks included in the show. “It’s a longstanding interest of mine, in these experimental artists that refuse to be pigeonholed as just painters or just sculptors,” explains Sparks.
Most of the show’s works are presented in pairs by the same artist and take on a reading as diptychs, and as such, provide another layer of binarism to echo the themes of duality and queerness present throughout the exhibit. I say queer not only to connote a sexual or gendered reading of the works (which is there, subconsciously) but also queer as in Twilight Zone, queer as in, “What am I looking at?”, queer as in uncomfortably implacable. A queered reading allows for the transcending of straightforward understandings and unsatisfactory categorizations, and indeed, one cannot evaluate these works only as paintings or only as sculptures. Tellingly, the term transmedia is used in the show’s press release, a much more apt non-category for these hanging, semi-flat-but-certainly-dimensional painted sculptural pieces.
The forms protruding from the picture plane differ greatly between works: some are anthropomorphic and bodily (squishy, skin-like), others recall mundanely domestic and familiar textures (of wallpaper, of a bookcase), while many reference the textile nature of the canvas fabric itself. Dimensionality has always been a problematic and theme of exploration in painting, in both the substantiality of the paint itself and the object quality of a painted canvas, ie. paint on fabric stretched around wooden bars. Regarding 2-D works always involves a suspension of belief, the viewer willfully immersing their experience in the image before them while never quite being able to blind themselves to the tactility of the thing they are regarding. See with Fingers addresses these concerns headfirst, presenting multiple fantastic collisions of tactility and visuality, where the line between the sensual and the optical is blurred, toyed with and transcended.
See with Fingers is a group exhibition curated by Laurel Sparks, featuring work by Yevgeniya Baras, Anna Betbeze, Sue Havens, Jane Fox Hipple, Eve Lateiner, Lauren Luloff, Chris Martin, Cordy Ryman, Laurel Sparks and Nancy Shaver.
It is on view at the Barbara Walters Gallery from November 21st to December 20th, 2013.
An exhibition catalogue is forthcoming, featuring essays by Laurel Sparks and Montana Jaro ’14, with design and layout by Kaitlyn Laurie ’14 and Rachel Potter ’14, and overseen by Janine Ryan.
All photo credit: Amit Sankaran ’17