by Ruslana Lichtzier
Language is itself a corrupted medium—to think with, and to write about art. While art can reach singularity, in that it can stand by itself, denoting nothing other than itself, language is unbearably caught in the referential; it is a net of the world as it is (which also hints upon why some modalities of art are so frequently analyzed, while others remain coated with silence).
In visiting devening projects + editions I was reminded of this; and in return I decided to attempt and write about Art, not Art and. However, prior to it, it reminded me of the joy that comes with seeing a good show. My visit to Drunken Geometry, a collaborative exhibition of Allison Wade and Leslie Baum, was both a mental and physical exercise. While my eyes quickly settled within the territory of pure formalism, my body accelerated in movement, starting to bend closer towards the objects, and then, stepping back, to see the arrangements / installations, until it reached an almost frantic movement—a movement where I was practically running between both of the gallery’s spaces, comparing moves and noting the myriad of gestures. I felt I was gifted back something that I had lost, something that I had forgotten how to look for: play, suspense and discovery; something that children have, a secret language.
In Drunken Geometry the gallery floor becomes a stage; on it, the objects arranged in scenes, tableaus of frozen pictures. The main room features The Window, The Curtains, The Table, The Floor (green), a piece that contains four canvas drop cloths, affixed to the wall, and several wood table parts. Here, as the written description proposes, the drop cloth is located in the “background,” while the wood table parts are in the “foreground.” The frontal arrangement enacts a cautious walk; each step raises tension. I wonder where then rests this invisible line, and with it, if I’ll cross into the frozen picture. The tension gratifies; in crossing over, or rather, when I transgress (transgress: from trans— “across” + gradi—”to walk, go”) I am rewarded. The bare objects become agape to a material speculation, while mutating and reinventing their form and texture into something different, constantly escaping my grip.
The background, however, the drop cloths, are spray-marked with objects missing from the show, traces bound in the canvas with an unforgiving horizontality—bound to be forever horizontal, even though they are hung. This gesture pulls the rug out from under my feet, sweeping me into vertigo.
Still, the canvas is not the main attraction. The main attraction, or rather the leading actor is missing from the scene. In the foreground we encounter five sculptural components (the count itself is speculative—in a work like this, which is not only an outcome of a collaboration between two authors, but is also installation in nature, it blurs the defined lines of unified objects and erases viewers’ possibility to follow predetermined logic). These are re-and-de-constructions of wood table parts; cut apart, reassembled, repainted, and treated. The objects explain to me, perhaps for the first time, what Lautréaumont meant in 1868 by writing “as beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table”(Les Chants de Maldoror). The early grandfather of surrealism defined in this the new modernistic vision. He outlined a horizontal composition of familiar elements that in proximity become estranged. Is it possible that Wade and Baum have succeeded in dusting off what has been, for some time, an old bourgeois aesthetics, and instead turn it into a revitalizing sight?
In stepping forward, or aside from Surrealism, the show’s aesthetics are not only non-hierarchical, but also leans toward the thin abstract. While working with what we may assume as domestic furniture, the grand canvases give an atmospheric hue. One room is green, the other purple; two brilliant colors that don’t easily succumb to common connotations. There is an ease to the exhibition. Interestingly, it also comes through language. Drunken Geometry’s off space features, among others, New Things (the persistence of ordered objects), Accidental Artifacts, and Many Things Conspired.
Here the theatrical is muffled. Due to the nature of this room being a project space, the arrangements are more loose. Some objects turn their back to you. At arms length, the same movements recurring; the works surrender to the thing as it is and at the same time re-imaging it as something new and different. It is rooted in serious playfulness, an engaged mode of action. These objects—subtle, and barely settled—seem to be accomplished with rupture, suddenly, when they only just begin to solidify.
Indeed, as Baum and Wade describe, “their work marks the horizon of a democratic act.”
Drunken Geometry at devening projects + editions runs through March 7, 2015.
Ruslana Lichtzier is a Chicago based artist, writer, curator and educator.