Thursday, June 23, 2011

Catching Trucks

Catching trucks is an a imaginative game played, on road trips, by putting out your hand and pretending to grab trucks that seem as though they could fit in your palm—a comparative size thanks to distance. A players hand frames the trucks between thumb and figures and then squishes it in a tight grip. The exhibition Catching Trucks, curated by Amita Kirpalani, at Gertrude Contemporary, focuses on artworks that block but also frame our vision just like the way a hand can clutch a truck.

Elizabeth Newman’s untitled consists of two large plywood structure made like schematic three dimensional windows and doors. They block the surrounding view but also offer passages; they frame an aspect of the view. They’re awkward and skinny in profile. This skinniness reminded me of Jude Law’s character in I Heart Huckabees, Brad Stand, saying ‘How am I not myself?’ They reference their surroundings but they are artworks that never seem to be themselves. In Catching Trucks there is a dichotomy between screens and passages; blocks and thoroughfares. Liminal spaces are described by their concealment. The translucent screens onto which pleasures are projected lose their opaque significances.

Numerous collages by Sean Bailey render desire and pleasure in small glimpses of images which seduce the eye in ways a complete image cannot. His artworks are collages where blotches of flat opaque pigment are painted over printed photographs which are only visible at the very margins of the image. Nothing of the action of these images can be seen. It is obscured by the blotches leaving only unrecognisable suggestions. Yet an intrigue is sparked by these vague edges. The blotches are a murky dreary colour and an ugly shape. They have a spilt quality which suggests that what was in the printed picture was more interesting to look at. But, of course, the blotch is the picture. It is clear that the buried content is more banal than its suppression requires.

Green Structure (2011) by Richard Maloy, installed in the front gallery, is a lot like the apple in The Listening Room (1952) by René Magritte. It is granny smith green and its brimming proportions fill the space of the gallery. When we first enter the gallery the view is very similar to The Listening Room—we see a square room with the window on the left which is filled with something big and green. There is one important distinction however; Maloy’s room cannot be seen as a full composition—in the same way as Magritte’s painting. Magritte puts the viewer in a pseudo-space in the logic of the painting to enable them to see the view. This view contradicts the emotions of the artwork; the viewer remains in the comfort of space in order for the artwork to render a cramped feeling. However, with Green Structure the viewer is stuffed-in with the artwork and it evokes actual claustrophobia rather than a metaphor. Like the magnitude of a natural disaster, we are only ever able to see parts of this huge object and, like in Bailey’s work; we experience the thrill of the limits of what can be seen.

This exhibition snatches the straightforwardness of reality from before our eyes. Lisa Oppenheim’s slide show The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere (2006) is more like the screen than the projection. A hand holding a photographic print of a sunset extends into each frame which is also of a sunset so that the two images match up. The sun, at the end of the day, gazes back at the viewer from the horizon. A photograph held against the blazing sun would be dark with a radiating light aura beyond its borders but the camera’s limitations condense these tones to the point where the image looks coherent. The sun’s gaze penetrates the photographed photographic image. Likewise, the six films of Ideal Demonstration (1972) by Peter Kennedy use a screen to reveal as well as conceal. In one Kennedy attaches sheets of transparent acetate between his face and the camera, one by one, until his image disappears. In another his body’s bright image burns a trace on the film after he has moved. In a third he opens and closes his eyes. Kennedy’s film reveals a subjective vision which is a product of a state of mind. While the screen can screen our view it is also the media onto which our view is screened. Can it be that we see and also see what we see? We project our fantasies onto our visual field but we censor them from ourselves behind a series of stereotype images.

The hand seen holding up the sunset photographs in The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere is like Green Structure in that it demonstrates our inability to visually assimilate our body. In Oppenheim’s collage the hand poetically belongs to the viewer but it doesn’t meet our arm. While in Maloy’s work the view is felt with the body more strongly than it is seen. The point of view implicitly laid-out in each of these artworks is strangely missing even though it is right under our noses.

At Gertrude Contemporary

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