There is a link between Well Loved Ones, Melissa McGrath’s solo show at PLUG Projects and the recent group exhibition at La Esquina All Tomorrow’s Parties. Both presentations consider the beauty and celebration that comes when we allow ourselves to accept the inevitable decay of time.
I experienced All Tomorrow’s Parties as a film screening and candle lighting ritual. Artist Aaron Stork read a poem he wrote that was printed on a bobeche — a type of candle holder used to catch drippings of candle wax. Following this performance was the screening of Demon Seed selected by Melissa Lenos, Assistant Professor of English at Donnelly College. Demon Seed (1977) features an Amazon Echo-esque digital butler, possessed by a sentient being, that desires eternal life with the home’s inhabitant — the programmers’ ex-wife. This dark, campy, ‘70s horror film made me think of the early 2000s Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House, which was likely a wink and nod to this original. Seeing this within the context of the show, Demon Seed creates a relationship to the exhibition’s overall themes: the party of the pending apocalypse, our relationship to technology, the intimate knowledge of the algorithms, and how we are losing our sense of ground to our increasingly strange reality.
With the work of Corey Antis, All Tomorrow’s Parties, there was an opportunity to further delve into the notion of ritual. The practice of daily ink drawing likens to the micro-ceremony of lighting a candle. As we continue spiraling towards the breaking-news-every-second mentality of modern American culture, the work in these shows ask what it means to take in rituals of slow time. How do we handle our relationship to our bodies and self-care? What does it mean to set an intention with lighting a candle? What does it mean to have an artistic and ritualistic practice in this new world order, as drawing is in opposition to a lot of our digital routines?
We light candles in celebration, sometimes in mourning, and occasionally to set an intention. In Well Loved Ones at PLUG Projects, Melissa McGrath created space and time for meditation using fire as a subtractive drawing tool. Each of the sculptural drawings in the show sagged and cast shadows, showcasing the scars and fractures of time. The liminality of the work is astonishing as one spends more time in its presence. I watched its decay from art opening, to a studio visit almost a month later, as each of the pieces started to collapse in on themselves. This motion, works as a reference to our own bodies as they scar and change texture with time. The rice paper, with all of its Rorschach-blot marks, called the viewer to the lace-like burns on the paper, inviting a moment of pareidolia; a place for our minds to project images of our own.
Calling to our projections of a future in a chaotic present takes us back to the work in All Tomorrow’s Parties. The empty portal of a home-like shape in Single Story Air Gap Comes Standard by Kelly John Clark, hints at our American idealism for wanting a place of our own— desiring to walk through and arrive at the threshold of stability. This piece resonated with me as a part of a generation stuck in a space of renting and debt. The only equity to personally build is a 401k of learned experiences. The blocks of colors referencing memories, quilting, comfort, and warmth.
The ghostly absence of Hadley Clark’s Medium appears as a leather jacket, an object of my own personal comfort. My leather jacket is a symbol of protection and a shield to a guarded femininity. Clark’s jacket flows into hang-offs of muslin, ripped and torn, flowing onto the floor. Each of these absent cutouts work a little like the shapes in McGrath’s work at PLUG, with a similar color palette and ephemeral sense of edge. The silhouette plays into the notion of the body as a site for moving through its own history. The fabric showing frays and scars, as our own flesh reflects memories of past experiences and traumas. The jacket itself is both a ritual in its making but a testimony to strength and resilience.
On the thread of resilience, is paper torn with a lighthearted pliability in Jonah Criswell’s Dreamlands. This is a newer work for Criswell, a drawing based on cut paper collage. The simplicity of the figures allow for the audience to project themselves into this space and simulate their own dream spaces of not knowing, yet embracing the unknown. The ritual of going to see your friends’ works in a show is a common thing for artists. These are moments when we can stand by our friends, partners, collaborators, and find the universal longing for a better tomorrow. A smart portal for the viewer, these ambiguous figures stand together overlooking a rocky ground. Our worldview, with ripples, fragments, interruptions, and interventions outside of our control is best viewed from a hilltop, with whatever optimism we can muster.
Well Loved Ones was on view at PLUG Projects local-solo space in conjunction with their show Slow Time: Alida van Almelo and Kevin Townsend from February 16th – March 17th 2018.
All Tomorrow’s Parties was on view at Charlotte Street’s La Esquina from January 26th- February 24th 2018. The show featured new works by Corey Antis, Hadley Clark, Kelly Clark, Jonah Criswell, Olivia Gibb, Will Henry, Caitlin Horsmon, Petyon Pitts, and Allan Winkler. The exhibition was organized and curated by Kelly Clark and Jonah Criswell
Also be sure to check out Emily Cox’s review of Peyton Pitts’ work in All Tomorrow’s Parties here