This piece of writing is related to a review segment in Roof Chill Episode 2*
The labor of looking, slow looking, is a meditative process that has been pushed out of our daily lives. With the rapid pace of our social media feeds, patience has become a commodity. Corey Antis’ drawings, paintings, and books in Works and Days at Haw Contemporary, forced us to hit the reset button to stop, look, and listen to both the work and ourselves.
On the walls in the round of the gallery were Antis’ human-scale drawings and books of various sizes. Each of the drawings became portals to explore the depth within the surface detail. You could choose to look slowly, moving closer in or farther away to notice the subtly shifting materials. Little flecks of paper reveal a treatment that could be sanding or a tear but the layers on top of a graphite-like material make the work shimmer in the light of the gallery.
On opening night, these books were displayed on counter height tables with one page open. Because of the material quality of the work and the presentation, people wanted to lean in and touch, feel the books, but they couldn’t. This aspect could throw off the typical audience of Haw Contemporary a bit, as the office space in the gallery near the back is filled with books and flat files that invite touch. As I looked further at the exhibition, it seemed there was a code to crack, hidden somewhere in the unturned pages, but what I didn’t realize was that key was right in front of me in the use of material itself.
I was interested to see further how this work came about. Knowing that Antis is always full of bountiful information and cultural commentary as an Assistant Professor of Painting at The Kansas City Art Institute, I assumed there had to be an agenda. During my studio visit with him mid-summer I had the opportunity to see some early sketches of the watercolors that he had been sharing on Instagram. This practice of making watercolors is one that is consistent and of great importance to his work that Antis presented at Haw. There are stacks of books filled with these observational drawings. It made me realize that the books presented in the exhibition are simply referencing this practice; taking the poetic moments that he finds in these observational watercolors which become the underlying reference for his work as a whole.
When the books were displayed in Works and Days they weren’t trying to be literal representations of that originally captured moment, but instead chances for the viewer to interpret something new. Antis’ work is pliable in this way it allows for one to come into it and leave at any point. The surprising thing is, that his work is something that is going to show more about ourselves than we may even be willing to acknowledge, rather than comment on larger theoretical narratives. It’s about pattern recognition. The place in which one can meander in the interplay of how things relate to one another. Antis is really astute in his ability to take these small parts of our human experience and convert them into visual art. These details often lead to a place that is a little bit scary, but a visual delight.
While in Antis’s studio he discussed how to find beauty in the mundane, and shared stories relating to the work like the search for a lost cat in a limestone basement window, or working with his father as a roofer. These narratives showed their subtle history in Works and Days. When you think about the manipulation of material it becomes clear that Antis has a romance with it and continues to ask new questions and pose new challenges. Both for the artist and the observer, the work of Corey Antis functions like a mirror and his pieces will show more about ourselves than we are willing to let on.
Corey Antis: Works and Days ran from April 29, 2016 – June 11, 2016 at Haw Contemporary more info on this exhibition is available here
*link to Roof Chill Episode 2 will be available October 4th
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