PARALLEL VISIONS: MEMORY AND THE LOSS OF PLACE
GREGGORY BRADFORD & RICHARD GOLDSTEIN ON LEE PLESTED’S STREET SCENE
Beyond the apparent dichotomy between the mind and body, concept and object, Lee Plested’s Street Scene at Murray Guy suggests the persistence of personal intervention and alteration of public material and the opportunity to then deploy that out to the street once again. It is an exhibition in two rooms, like the hemispheres of the brain. One standard white cube of a room according to the curator Lee Plested, “has a more academic approach” in concept towards its presentation juxtaposed against the warmer room of collaged and found object works. Although contrast is a main ingredient between the two spaces, there are strong conversations between works in each of the two rooms.
What links the two spaces together is the employment of memory in the midst of a loss of place—represented as either the artist as nomad (the north gallery) or the artist of the void (the south gallery). How the artists, then, recover a position and relocate themselves through making determines the installation. For instance, Andrew Dadson delves into the void by expressing an embrace of empty space in crayon with The Black in the Sky. Being a text driven conceptual work it sits well in the south gallery. An anarchist taking this children’s scratchboard craft project out to the street, Dadson blackens out the landscape—a nihilistic graffiti photographed in Black Painted Fence. This piece both erases space and documents the artist’s intervention.
The north gallery, the warmer of the two, is an environment created from the leftovers, a room filled with found objects from the outside world. Hanging in the vestibule to this space are drawings by Colter Jacobsen and posters by Kika Thorne. The Jacobsen works, entitled Sleep Cells, are drawings on old used opened envelopes of figures (that could be dead or cloud watching) laid out in foreshortened compositions. These are “memory drawings” first drawn by looking at a photo of the figure that is then covered and drawn again from memory, “finding the image’s twin,” explains Jacobsen. He develops a strategy engaging and personalizing the indexical image of the photograph and activates it through an intimate process of remembering.
Kika Thorne’s fly postered images are a piece titled Work, Labour, Action posted around NYC and Brooklyn coinciding with the day of the opening. They are all portraits of Hannah Arendt, a German philosopher that wrote primarily on Totalitarianism. Here, Thorne enlists the static iconic image and disperses it out to the street scene energizing the picture and staying true to its message of workàaction. Both Jacobsen and Thorne’s work confront us with our own mortality through drawings of remembered prone figures and poster prints of a twentieth century martyr. Jacobsen’s other work, ever end ever, a found object archive, stands squarely near the middle of the room. An array of strangers’ personal belongings saved from the streets during treks of sidewalk expeditions are displayed here. Photos, sheet music, printed materials, and found writings are evidence and memory of and for someone else. Of the four boxes holding the archive together, two are physically present while the other two are mere representations, electrical tape drawings that resonate in tandem with the decorated cardboard cubes.
Next to Colter’s piece are two landscapes. Fictional settings created from the detritus of printed materials, Cross-Bedded Texts. The erosion of this post-industrial age, carving visions of not yet explored landscapes, laying claim to the decomposing surroundings left behind. Leslie Shows illustrates a culture with the ebb and flow of profit lines in the year’s predictions of generated growth. Blurring the “neat line,” a Surrealists poem for each participant. What should be solid ground of a described shore; the mass of printed words and letters are shifting sands of our continued educations in the representation of our daily lives.
In contrast, the white room presents image making in an extremely detached manner. Wrapped around two walls is a laminated series of images from momentous events, scientific experiments, and popular culture. The collection of images (Album II, consisting of eighty panels by Luis Jacob) is a highly starched objective archive of public images captured in an aesthetic sterility relegating the work to generic cultural wallpaper. The affect of a Google image search is detrimental to the piece and its viewing experience. Here, there seems to be more of a superficial yen for vintage clippings than a functional mobile rebus put to use by Abbey Warburg. A personal archive nonetheless, but less raw and tangible than Jacobsen’s ever end ever. The laminated panels merely capture information like a recording of a tuning radio . . . A white noise further explored in Lucy Pullen’s sculpture Know What You Want. The dead amp, coated in a layer of plaster, merely offers the suggestion of noise and activity, the idea or anticipation of it—perhaps a silent homage to Beuy’s felt wrapped piano.
Object making in this section arrives exclusively through analytical processes while sculpture in the warmer room takes on a completely different approach through the work of Gareth Moore. He creates pieces of collected and combined found objects from his travels as the intimate mapping of a travelogue. One materials list reading, “Fence post from The Eden Project, stake from an abandoned Californian gold mine, scrap wood from Donald Judd’s studio, flag pole from Trentino.” These pieces are as much poetry as Leslie Show’s Cross-Bedded Texts I & II. So, his objects are layered with stories. Through disparate parts brought to Murray Guy and assembled as a bed, a pair of glasses, and a hanger, the next chapter of their existence is marked. The comfortable, yet precarious, nature of these items is shanty-like. For Gareth Moore these pieces are artifacts and evidence of this his travels.
There is something happening in the street, the public arena. A picture is taken framing that particular moment as a sign. We internalize the external event and assemble it in our memory—a sensorial double helix. As the architecture of experience, memory shapes personality, character, and individual. The signs are the communal guideposts to our generation while the personal mental stratigraphy of those touchstones is unique and bound to identity.