Open-endedness, capaciousness and other provocative conditions of making
September 30 - November 8
Artists' Reception October 3, 5-7pm
A focused group exhibition
Ashley Billingsley | Caroline Burton | Elizabeth Keithline
Wilson Harding Lawrence | Greg Mencoff | Wendy Wolf | Heeseop Yoon
curated by Judith Tolnick Champa
and a Providence Biennial event
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
-Wallace Stevens, Stanza V, "Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird"
This focused exhibition showcases the harmoniously related work of seven outstanding artists. They live and work in Connecticut (Wilson Harding Lawrence), Massachusetts (Ashley Billingsley, Greg Mencoff, Wendy Wolf), Rhode Island (Elizabeth Keithline), New Jersey (Caroline Burton) and New York (Heeseop Yoon), and show nationally and internationally. Taken together they practice several media, drawing and sculpture foremost. In the process of making, each artist gains much aesthetic and conceptual purchase by expressively subverting expectations. To push further without forcing the bird metaphor above, each is a canary singing in a goldmine, experimenting daringly to discover what comes forth, what may propel them most successfully.
The discursive title of this exhibition makes clear the nuanced, or shaded character of the works on view. Finding the right platform and scale in which to test, enact and develop their intentions, there is in each artist a sense of weaving in and out of pictorial and actual space, frequently through density and prolixity of mark making, shadow, and linear patterns. There is also expansion across series, through repetitions testing perceptual certainties. The artists themselves are provocative, engaging us as viewers in the surprising actions of their materials, assertions and denials, their never-conventional visions.
-Judith Tolnick Champa, excerpt from catalog essay
My work is a meditation on landscape as site of visceral encounter — where forces at play exceed the navigator’s capacity for identification or understanding, and the necessity to act urges us to assign meaning to what is often only partial information.
Fire in Woods I-VI depicts the interstitial moment between preparation and battle in Akira Kurosawa’s epic 1954 film Seven Samurai. The landscape delineates a buffer between the protagonists’ known existence and what will come, framing a fugitive present tense that the drawings are an attempt to enter. It’s too dark to know what's really out there, so conjecture picks up where the senses leave off.
Despite the ways we mark and measure it, our position in the external world is unclear and limitations of mind and body render the most basic features mysterious. I think of this as the larger theme in my work, and use landscape as vehicle for exploring the implications.
The process of organizing the unfamiliar is central to my work, which encompasses sculpture, drawing and painting. My method, an intuitive one, has led to executions across several motifs, including the rabbit/pelt, architectural forms and the effects of accidents (personally and through art making). Linking them all is the context of a transformational process. Additionally, visual connection exists through the use of grid, which appears in nearly every piece, whether subtle or overt. Psychologically, the grid creates order and continuity as I traverse various themes.
Between these works a dialogue takes place, transformation occurs, moods are dramatized, and messages achieve clarity. Becoming almost lifelike, all forms in the work behave as one, even as they remain entirely separate.
These paintings were created in 2013 as studies for an installation called Only The Strong Survive, which focused on how human self-extension affects the animal world. Only The Strong Survive, both the sculptures and the paintings, were shown first at BoxoProjects and on Governors Island in New York City and then at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
I made them by gently laying road kill on paper and spray-painting around them.
The intention of the images is to reference religious martyrdom. Animals have an innocence that particularly captures my interest and I believe that authenticity, especially now when things sometimes can seem very slick, is something that we look to animals to provide.
Wilson Harding Lawrence
Ink on paper is a good starting point for mark making on a plane, but drawing in three-dimensional space requires new materials and a new visual vocabulary. My pieces begin with the most familiar flat surfaces, the wall and the floor. On these planes I draw, dig into, and build out of, with a wide range of materials from traditional fine art to the industrial.
Working with these materials, I try to create tension between geometric constructions and free form gestural marks both formally and in our lives. Shifting planes in space act as different perspectives. Changing and/or challenging viewer’s perceptions’ and perspectives is a constant pursuit. As we know everything changes but change remains.
My interests lie in the “Architecture of Things,” how and why objects originate and what is their place, or utility, if any. The sculptures draw some influence from an ancillary involvement with electronic music, primarily through the practice and study of sonic behavior and recurrent progressions that originated with Minimalist music theory. Repetition and their variances have become dominant conceptual principles associated with the current sculptural work.
The premise of What We Carry is primarily based on the philosophical/ social tenets and symbolism proposed in the text A Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly. My intent is to present fundamentally simple geometric pine structures that are visually bonded by a shared ambiguous optical dimensionality, as presented through their graphite elements. Commonality is made unique by an exclusive, nuanced illusion of a similar characteristic.
The shifting of scale and angular orientations presented in a packed format is to imply movement in place and jockeying as a group. The overall repetitive nature of the form and content references an arbitrary syncopation, borrowed from a musical practice of organizing variations of sequential sound patterns that evolve into a harmony over time. Finger rests at the base of each shape suggest that these objects are carried, but as they are open forms without a bottom the implication is that the voids cannot be filled.
Initial, basic concepts and ruminations for this piece began in 1982 after I first read the Bly book. It is only recently that I was able to solve a visual execution that seemed appropriate to me.
I am currently working on two separate series of works, “Examined Repetition” and “Natural Repetition.”
“Examined Repetition” is my form of poetry. My repeated mark-making evolved from earlier work I was creating using automatic writing as imagery. I wanted to remove the direct use of words from an image to make it more about my meditative action. Although no longer text, my intent with the mark-making is still to communicate through a language—an open visual language—to develop a dialogue between my intention and your interpretation.
The series of ink drawings began while listening to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” Music is a driving force as I create. As soon as the first pulses begin my hands go to work and my mind clears. The music ebbs and flows through the work, sometimes pushing forward, becoming almost a direct visualization of what I am hearing, and other times it is an underlying force that allows me just to make.
Living within urban and suburban communities, constructed landscapes have been my primary experience with nature. In “Natural Repetition” I create a record of a fleeting moment; reproducing leaves that have been altered by weather or bugs, and preserve them through reproduction. Using yupo, an industrial plastic paper, as my base material I neutralize nature by reducing it to formal aspects of shapes while creating leaves that will not decompose. Through line I manufacture tenuous visual and physical connections.
Cotton threads that will weaken and disintegrate with time create the structure for my reproduced leaves. My intent is to establish a tenuous connection with the natural world by bringing my manufactured leaves as a mimesis of nature in dialogue with the landscapes of human construct. The series began during a residency at Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) in Scottsdale, Arizona, that gave me the opportunity to create an outdoor installation piece. While exploring the grounds I found an orchid tree whose leaves looked very similar to the repeated marks I had been working with in my painting and cut paper series. That installation has since lead to a whole series of work based on different locations and the natural repetition found in various types of plants.
Click on image to read drawings' borders [or placement on sheet].
My work deals with memory and perception within cluttered spaces. I begin by photographing interiors such as basements, workshops, and storage spaces, places where everything is jumbled and time becomes ambiguous without the presence of people. From these photographs I construct a view and then I draw freehand without erasing. As I correct "mistakes" the work results in double or multiple lines, which reflect how my perception has changed over time and makes me question my initial perception. Paradoxically, greater concentration and more lines make the drawn objects less clear. The more I see, the less I believe in the accuracy or reality of the images I draw.
Judith Tolnick Champa, Guest curator
I am a committed post-war and contemporary curatorial director trained in Brown’s History of Art graduate program, where teaching with objects became my passion and the impetus for originally embarking upon a curatorial career. Of course History of Art graduate students concentrate on specific historical materials, works of intended specialness or “art,” works of broad circulation within cultures, or in the architectural remains of cultures, past and not so past. I have used that knowledge to move with some confidence and productive effect to navigate an increasingly complex global society where conditions, particularly conditions of information, are as they never have been before.
I am an independent curator and art writer based in Providence, having assumed this hybrid role following serving as editor-in-chief for a regional, bimonthly art publication in Boston which in turn followed curatorial work first at Brown’s David Winton Bell Gallery, List Art Center and later the University of Rhode Island’s former Fine Arts Center Galleries in Kingston, near Connecticut.
I am also at this time laying the groundwork for an ambitious and exciting Biennial of Contemporary Art to be held across the city of Providence and well beyond, a non-profit of which I am founding director.
-Judith Tolnick Champa, October 2015
The Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art is conceived in the spirit of the legendary Venice Biennale and other European precedents. The non-profit program, to occur on an every two-year cycle, is being prefigured by a rollout of boldly curated exhibitions generated under its aegis, in tandem with select institutions, galleries, and alternative spaces.
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