Matt Connors, Untitled 1, Pen on newsprint, 10 x 7 1/4 inches (framed), courtesy Gresham's Ghost
Unaddressed Circumventions: Folds from a Failed Suicide at Gresham’s Ghost
521 W 26th Street,
New York, NY,
May 14 through June 9, 2009
Ajay Kurian’s Unaddressed Circumventions: Folds from a Failed Suicide, is the second installment of his ongoing Grisham’s Ghost nomadic curatorial series. Selections from a suicide note - whose convoluted language often seems to cross the line with a dark, philosophy-heavy art criticism - function as a fragmented and jagged backbone to the show. The note is part of William Gaddis’ first novel, The Recognitions.
The ultimate uselessness of painting claimed by Gaddis’ text is translated into an extended skepticism towards, or re-evaluation of, visual representation. It looms large among the artworks. The dark, desperate tone of the missive, emphasized by Kurian’s radical text fragmentation, reverberates throughout the exhibition. Jason Fox and Matt Connors provide the only actual paintings. These stick to abstraction or quasi-abstraction and keep the immediacy and readability of their artistic intentions at an unfortunate minimum. Connor’s tiny paper and pen Untitled abstractions are way more convincing with their savvy use of variation over a set of almost imperceptible and thoroughly humble structural and formal components.
Matt Saunders’ contact prints, fashioned as Buster Keaton’s portraits via the simple and elegant use of the actor’s silhouette, provide a sort of visual summa of the exhibition. The gestural silvery strokes of the altered negatives delete and define at the same time, while representation and context are reduced to an evanescent, impossible minimum setting a tone that’s reminiscent the darkest passages in Gaddis’ text. This dark series of analogues, each different in the painterly treatment of the negative, leads to Saunder’s more lyrical Asta Nielsen (in the snow) a ghostly portrait of the famous Danish silent film diva. Asta is falling, whitened out by wide, ectoplasmic silver strokes. A pitch black background seems on the verge of consuming her liquid body substance, invading the pure boundaries of the snowy white. The connection between this piece and the apocalyptic language of Gaddis’ suicide note is quite immediate and rooted in the emotional quality of the image and its treatment.
Matt Saunders, Buster Keaton (Drawn Photo, Silver) #1
silver ink on black and white photograph (unique c), courtesy Gresham's Ghost
Elena Bajo’s little installation/painting is another highlight of the show. The economical execution and pragmatic look of the piece, as well as its unceremonious title (one hundred watts, twelve forty seven, post meridium) conceal complex and intriguing ideas. Hung low on the wall, a small naive landscape on canvas, dominated by tones of gray, is obliterated by a central white rectangle, outlined in tape. A few inches from the canvas, an equally low tripod holds a spotlight close to the white area, its light filtering through the adjustable flaps and forming a geometric pattern of bright whites and shades of gray. Bajo’s negation and, to a certain degree, destruction of the underlying painting seems to be aimed at a transformation of its stale artistic values. The painting’s uniqueness (highly questionable, given its stock quality) lingers like a ghost behind the diagrammatical nature of the contraption, a whitewashed memento mori to painting and craftsmanship.
Elena Bajo, one hundred watts twelve forty seven post meridium, mixed media, courtesy Gresham's Ghost
The conceptual framework of Unaddressed Circumventions is open and flexible enough to allow dissonant and border-line interpretations to whatever aspects of the original text Kurian was trying to stress by folding and editing Gaddis’ text. Several contributions do not seem to really relate to the words that should have inspired them. Anyhow, the exhibition vibrates with the letter’s hopeless tone, echoing its convoluted, pessimistic lucubrations. Death finally stands out as the only way of circumventing the unbearable weight of a failure that is assumed as a prerequisite of any art form.
Marco Antonini is a New York based independent curator and writer. He has collaborated with some of the most reputable organizations in New York, including ISCP, Elizabeth Foundation, LMCC, ISE Foundation, Japan Society, Triangle Arts and the Dumbo Arts Center.
A freelance educator/lecturer at MoMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA PS1 and 3rdWard Design Center, his articles, essays and interviews have been published on Flash Art International, Cura, Whitehot, Museo, BMM, Contemporary, AroundPhotography, Arte&Critica and NYArts. He has lectured on various topics for the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Japan Society, ISE Foundation, City College of New York/CUNY and the Rhode Island School of Design.