June 4 – September 24, 2022
A landscape of naked planes and sudden recesses, exposures of bone and furrowing resources of sense and expression, the human face has evolved to convey complicated information. In portraiture, an art form with us since the edge of history, the face portrayed bears additional signifiers: geographies, genders, family emblems, status, power, health, and the mysterious interplay between artist and subject. As a commonality of our species and a window through which essential human exchanges are negotiated, the face is a value we once took for granted, until faces were taken from us. FACE examines conceptual and aesthetic means of reclaiming versions of ourselves through portraiture executed in radically diverse forms.
In the post pandemic era the faces of others become a daily abstraction, mitigated by masks and screens, manipulated pixels and glitches in time and space. The artists of FACE confront anew the intimate, fearsome, occasionally overwhelming experiences of perceiving humanity in the spontaneous moment of catching sight of a human face. Delineated in photographs and paintings, Daguerreotypes, raucous collage transfers, and ghostly etchings on glass, this collection of representations ranges from the faces of politicians to delicate reliquaries portraying the cast aside. Some images echo from barely-remembered dreams and fairy tales, others present fully embodied people, captured in all their enigmatic specificity. Each of the artists of FACE reconsider the portrait in contemporary terms: the inscrutable emotions of our time, and the signifiers we seek to both remember and forget.
Artists include: Diane Arbus, Rachel Bess, Enrique Chagoya, Binh Danh, Claudio Dicochea, Ben Durham, Gilbert Garcin, Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Siri Devi Khandavilli, Luo Brothers, Carrie Marill, Reynier Leyva Novo, Luis Gonzalez Palma, Charlotte Potter, and Benjamin Timpson.
Wear Your Love Like Heaven
March 12 – May 28, 2022
In 1967, the year Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” first played on the radio, a generation of artists sought higher consciousness and citizens protested against global violence and inequality. In our current moment of conflict, poignancy and possibility, Donovan’s soulful directive echoes as an invitation to bear witness once again to our infinitely multiplying ways of being. The artists of Wear Your Love Like Heaven each use contemporary processes and concepts to propose a paradigm shift, suggesting a spectrum of existence beyond what we currently perceive, and portraying vivid, hopeful new ways of being, as well as courageous methods for perceiving–and loving–one another.
Wear Your Love Like Heaven includes recent works by the artists Merryn Omotayo Alaka, Rachel Bess, Enrique Chagoya, Sonya Clark, Binh Danh, Ben Durham, Ala Ebtekar, Angela Ellsworth, Sam Fresquez, Carrie Marill, Marie Navarre, Charlotte Potter, Ato Ribeiro, Julianne Swartz, and Benjamin Timpson. While recalling past social movements toward spirituality and sensuality, each artist proposes a contemporary template for honoring our miraculous multiplicity of senses and experiences.
The mysticism of Donavan’s anthem is but a moment in a deep chronology of spiritual seeking: Ala Ebtekar’s Zenith series is influenced by writings of the 11th-century Islamic philosopher Suhrawardi, who proposed a framework for understanding the universe based on properties of illumination and intuition. In Ebtekar’s rendering, the cyanotype process, in which an iron-red ferrous solution is exposed to UV light to produce vivid cyan, becomes an alchemical technique merging earthly matter and myth, painting and photographic methods. The works in Zenith were exposed at the sun’s zenith in the sky for a single day in each of the four seasons, connecting human and cosmic timescales.
In art and life, Ato Ribeiro is fortified by the Adinkra symbol of Sankofa, which “directs us to return and retrieve that which may be valuable or forgotten.” The Ghanaian-American artist’s fascinating hand-marqueted constructions of found wood reflect on the value of discarded materials as a metaphor for bodies and lives, and are inspired by his conversations with diasporic peoples throughout the American landscape. These stories resonate through the hypnotic combinations of symbols and patterns collected in Ribeiro’s work, just as the spiritual directive communicated by Sankofa threads through the works in Wear Your Love Like Heaven.
Ancient materials of our universe generate and regenerate in vast permutations of life and meaning; in the spare and exhilarating photographic constructions of Marie Navarre, this cycle is made manifest via the mysterious arrangements of the natural world, which the artist captures in photographs and photo collages. Navarre’s works seem to isolate silent moments of the world becoming and remembering, and her recent work is influenced in part by the writing of 1960’s philosopher Alan Watts. The artist remarks, “My work is very much informed by the difficult state of the world at this moment but also by my sense that living beings do have the capacity–maybe even the nature–to bloom, or love, in the midst of the impossible.”
Benjamin Timpson uses deconstructed and intricately overlapping butterfly wings as a medium of portraiture, presenting his subjects as woven from the complex materials of memory, nature, metamorphosis, and survival. Timpson sees these portraits as a metaphor for the significance of individual lives impacted by cultural violence, and as a way of examining the horrors of centuries-long exploitation of Native lands and cultures. Yet Timpson considers his work an act of hope and catharsis. The artist remarks: “The butterfly is appropriate because there’s a metamorphosis that takes place with these portraits; my work is about giving voice to the voiceless, and bringing to light the lives of these women.”
Wear Your Love Like Heaven invites us to adorn ourselves in our individuality and be anointed by the spiritual substance of existence: our diversity of bodies, cultures, and earthly experiences. Its message resounds for us in 2022: this moment calls for a radical willingness to love one another, in all our resplendent colors and expressions.
January 8 – March 5, 2022
Beverly Penn’s complex botanical sculptures in luminous patinated bronze are reminders that human life is axiomatically intertwined with plant life: our own existence is possible only because of the breath, sustenance, and structure that plants provide. Penn’s work–exquisite botanical flourishes cast from the diversity of species that inhabit the chaparral and hill country ecologies of the sculptor’s home in Texas–remind us of the deep biological intimacy between humans and plants, a relationship that ranges from ornamental habit to evolutionary survival. Radical Adaptation, a collection of Penn’s recent works, will be exhibited at Lisa Sette Gallery from January 8 to March 5, 2022 in an examination of the aesthetic relationship between botanical forms and human experience in a time of climate change and species decline. Penn’s works present both a memorial to the lost primacy of the botanical world, and an allegory for survival, imagination, and radical adaptation.
A collector of specimens, Penn’s botanical knowledge is extensive; her studio doubles as an archive of plant forms that are robust enough to withstand the casting process: Agave, Antelope Horn Milkweed, Bulbine, Coyote Brush, Canada Thistles. Penn duplicates these structures in bronze using centrifugal casting, a jewelry-making method that is capable of capturing the minute details of vining stems, thistles and seed pods.
Collections of cast botanicals are the raw materials that begin Penn’s process, which she likens to drawing or painting:
“I really do not know what the outcome is going to be when I start. It can become an exercise in variety, contrasting large and small botanicals, or a snapshot of a time and place. For example, a collection of thistles from where I live now in Central Texas, combined with thistle I brought from my childhood home in Maryland. Or plants picked from the four corners of my garden in each season. These are all connected for me, but each narrative is different.”
Centrifugal casting must be executed in small scale, so each of Penn’s initial components is no more than five or six inches; the sculptor uses nails and templates to composite these parts into large-scale wall pieces in forms that swirl and twist several feet in each dimension. She then solders the pieces together, polishing each solder-mark so that it is nearly invisible, then immerses the whole into patina chemicals such as copper nitrate, ferric chloride, or ammonia chloride.
In each part of this complex process, Penn relies on the organic forms themselves to enact a transformation; the shape of the smallest component contributes to the overall composition, while the chemical patinas interact with the crooks and crevices of the original stems and blossoms:
“I’m trying to think about these plants as individuals, that the individual species are reacting to a global situation, and I’m trying to use patinas as a parallel natural process. The color and shape is not only about a physical or visual description, but a stand-in for a process that affects ecosystems as a whole.”
Increasingly, remarks Penn, her subject matter is the dwindling ecologies of flora, both in memoriam for the the living things that are leaving the earth, and as a means of moving forward from these losses:
“I am idealizing native plant compositions as a way to bring attention to the devastation of climate change, but in recent work I am also paying attention to the weeds, the invasives, because right now there’s simply a need to have green stuff in the earth that attracts pollinators and adds nutrients to the soil. Saying a plant is “good” or “bad” doesn’t address the incredible nuances in the ecology of plants.”
Recently, Penn remarks, she has been paying attention to the jungles of diverse and surprising specimens that spring up in neglected freeway median strips, shapes structured by one of the most mundane and destructive of human activities–vehicular travel–that nevertheless provide an untouched place for hardy and uncultivated plants to thrive.
Penn’s keen botanical knowledge, her library of flora and her metalworking skills combine in an enchanted process that results in conflagrations of bronze vines, buds and thistles in arrangements resembling vessels, vortici, or tumbling spirals. Each sculpture is illuminated in such a way that casts fugitive ecologies in shadow form, drawing our attention to the patterns of absence and structure that make up biological life. Penn’s sculptures are not exact recreations of plants, nor are they pure botanical ornamentation; each work is a formal composition, conjured from secret narratives and gathered in wild places, that speaks to the exquisite intimacy between humans and plants, and the unknown transformations wrought by our changing planet. Penn has remarked that through her casting process–in which the original organic material is burnt from the wax mold–these works may be thought of as memorials to plants that once were, yet
“a memorial also links us to desire, so it is equally hopeful, because it is in idealized nature that we cultivate in our imagination.”
October 9 – December 31, 2021
As the hot summer months increase, Arizona’s palo verde trees burst into bloom earlier each spring–a bright reminder of seasonal changes wrought by human activity and a harbinger of ecosystem upheavals to come. “It’s glorious and concerning,” remarks Lisa Sette, founder of Lisa Sette Gallery, for whom the palo verde’s precocious bloom provoked a consideration of many recent alterations to human and natural cycles–from Japan’s cherry blossom celebration, which took place earlier in 2021 than almost any year since 812, to the decline of Western Monarch butterfly populations. “There’s been a lot of talk lately about the anthropocene era. What is the human role in both altering nature and destroying natural systems? How can artists counteract what humans have done?”
The group show Temporary in Nature, on view October 9 – December 31, 2021 at Lisa Sette Gallery, explores the complexities of art made in a time of planetary change. Works included in Temporary in Nature both interrogate the destructive global systems we’ve built, and suggest that the present geological moment offers an opportunity for radical and hopeful new expressions of self and nature. Artists include: Edward Burtynsky, Kim Cridler, Binh Danh, Alan Bur Johnson, Mark Klett, Michael Koerner, Mayme Kratz, Yao Lu, Michael Lundgren, Matthew Moore, Marie Navarre, and James Turrell.
Historians often date the start of the anthropocene era to the detonation of the atomic bomb in 1945. Photographer Michael Koerner’s mother was 12 at the time and living in Nagasaki; his father served on a Navy ship in close proximity to the Bikini Atoll nuclear experiments. Temporary in Nature features Koerner’s Cherry Blossoms, a series of six photographic constellations of collodion on tin, in which crystalline structures bloom in eerie relief against black lacquer backgrounds. A professor of chemistry, Koerner researches and reverse-engineers the intriguing developing “flaws” he finds in his collection of turn-of-the century tintypes, devising acid and salt solutions that result in unpredictable mutations like passing clouds or ghostly flowers strewn across the photographic plates. Although his work relies on technical research, “in the darkroom,” says Koerner, “It’s all spiritual and emotional. Eventually, suffering must be processed here.” While working, Koerner communicates with his parents and siblings, all of whom have died as a result of cancer or genetic disorders, asking them for permission to tell his family’s story. Because, as he remarks, “there’s beauty in this damage.”
Whether as deeply personal experiments or documentary evidence, Sette regards photographs as uniquely positioned to capture this precarious time and register “a certain veracity” about human activity on earth. Mark Klett’s Fence separating the US/Mexico border south of the Gila Mountains, May 2015, in which a lone steel gate has been thrust on the boundless and indifferent high desert topography of the Gila Mountains, conveys the absurdity of human geopolitical division. In a striking critique of the global culture of extraction and accompanying destruction, Yao Lu’s New Landscape Part I-06 View of waterfall with rocks and pines mimics a bucolic natural scene; in fact Lu’s work is a photo collage made up of images of industrial refuse piles covered in green netting. Lu ingeniously arranges these industrial idyls in the compositional form of a traditional Chinese landscape painting.
Edward Burtynsky re-envisions the notion of landscape itself in Uralkali Potash Mine #3, Berezniki, Russia, in which concentric drill scars have shaped a brightly striated mineral wall, creating a landform entirely generated by large-scale resource consumption. Burtynsky’s works remind us of the scale of the earth-altering anthropocene endeavor, but they are also fascinating and exhilarating studies of shape, line, and color of the material of our earth.
In an acknowledgment that the compulsion to transform the world around us is also an essential element of making art, Temporary in Nature includes two photographic portraits of Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson’s renowned 1970 earthworks piece on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Michael Lundgren’s Flares over Spiral Jetty, an expansive image of the lake in the black of night, is punctuated by thin strokes of launched flares caught in their brief moment of illumination; the jetty itself is in pale outline against a vast horizon. This contradiction is at play throughout Temporary in Nature: the transitory measure of human life, and our corresponding drive to make an irrevocable mark on the world.
Binh Danh’s works are meditations on self, art, and nature, etched upon the stormy, polished-silver surfaces of small Daguerreotype plates. In Spiral Jetty, Utah (#2), Smithson’s project resembles a recently unfurling organic structure, reaching tentatively into the abyss of the primordial waters, while Untitled #17 from Danh’s “Aura of Botanical Specimen” series reveals the intricate arterial system of a leaf as an impressive and sensuous architecture. Both pieces invite the viewer to consider how our individual existence is a distinct but connected part of a larger biological whole. When you look at the mirror-like surface of a Daguerreotype, Danh remarks, “You become part of the image. You are able to reflect yourself onto this landscape.”
Coaxing form from land is an age-old mode of exercising both spirituality and power: James Turrell’s Roden Crater project literally imprints his aesthetic vision on the earth, reconstructing an extinct volcano into a series of massive interconnected chambers designed for the observation of celestial phenomena. Turrell’s Site Plan with Projected Section and Survey Net chronicles one phase of this four decades-long project. Mayme Kratz creates more minute chambers for observation of the natural world, collecting biological fragments like seeds, plant materials, and bones from the desert floor and arranging these pieces in transfixing resin where they hover timelessly like small galaxies. Kratz has commented that she is “desperate, foraging for the things in nature that are disappearing.”
Alan Bur Johnson’s a flock, a swarm, consists of 183 photographic transparencies of bird, butterfly, and insect wings in sharp anatomical relief, each vivid specimen contributing to the whole. From a distance, the collection of delicate, fluttering transparencies hanging on dissection pins might resemble the coruscating shadow of human form. Johnson remarks: “[This] is my response to our threatened natural environment, while addressing all fleeting life cycles, including our own. Life and death, but also birth and rebirth.”
In previous eras as in the present time, it is artists who continue to envision and embody new conceptions of self and place; their work feels particularly urgent in the anthropocene, as we recalibrate our relationship to the world around us. Whether operating on monumental or molecular scales, the artists of Temporary in Nature examine our willingness to destroy and as well as our ability to generate new frameworks for existence. As their work reveals, humans exist within a system of creation and survival that is refulgent, resilient, and mysterious.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez, Angela Ellsworth
Things We Carry
Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez, and Angela Ellsworth
June 5 – September 25, 2021
In the works of Merryn Omotayo Alaka, Sam Fresquez, and Angela Ellsworth, the fearless endeavors of identity give rise to complex and transcendent expressions of place, self and culture. Claiming one’s identity in the public sphere can be fraught with resistance, particularly for women and people of color; however, for Omotayo Alaka, Fresquez, and Ellsworth, the radical power of selfhood is revealed in living patterns and bright monuments, as the artists forge new aesthetic and conceptual spaces with gestures that are both intrepid and intimate.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez produce immersive spaces that reference rituals of self expression and public representation. In considering their installation of multiple floor-length suspensions of synthetic hair, each meticulously gathered into tassel, bubble, and chandelier forms, Omotayo Alaka says, “Because of the scale and material, we are hoping that viewers have a physical relationship with the sculptures…we want the feminine body to be represented and seen here.” These representative objects tend to transform a space, says Fresquez, “They become a landscape, and it really becomes its own world.”
Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez construct their intriguing worlds from personal experience: the installation at Lisa Sette Gallery is part of a series titled It’s Mine I Bought It, a nod to the Princess Nokia song Mine, which both revels in the ways that Black and Brown women wear their hair and rejects the incessant interrogation of these traditions. Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez both acknowledge as formative in their own lives the elaborate rituals of hairdressing, the use of synthetic hair as a facet of self-expression, and the fact that society imposes strict expectations upon the hair and appearance of Black and Brown women in public spaces. In the time-consuming process of constructing each gleaming tassel and tier, says Omotayo Alaka, “We were thinking of these as an extension of our own bodies…I think we were really relating to the sculptures as stand-ins for ourselves and talking about the relationship between self presentation and place.”
Public identity and cultural presence is also at work in Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez’s gleaming, oversize hoop earrings, made of Brazilian gold granite at a Vermont studio that usually fabricates gravestones and monuments. In elevating these familiar objects at iconic scale, Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez draw attention to both their history as an affordable item of adornment and their essential elegance of form. Fresquez remarks: “I’ve always been really interested in the idea of monuments—who they have been made by and for in the United States.” Ultimately, Fresquez remarks of the hoop earring statuary, “They’re monuments because we say they should be.”
Patternmaking is an essential part of both artists’ practices; they see “patterns as a metaphor for intergenerational knowledge and the repetition of information.” Together, Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez produce brilliant printed textiles that pull into focus overlooked but culturally significant items: wheel rims, cosmetic razors, the virgencita necklace. Individually, Omotayo Alaka will exhibit textiles related to the symbolic significance of hair braiding and beading in Yoruba culture; Fresquez will include patterned works that explore the culture of Nascar, which was a part of her childhood experience. For both, patternmaking is a “quiet way to share stories about ourselves.”
Through a series of interconnected performances, rituals, objects and installations, multidisciplinary artist Angela Ellsworth delineates new spaces and ways of existing that are alive to the magic of our lived experiences and shared histories. In Sister Wives, a series of multidisciplinary and performative projects, Ellsworth channeled her female Mormon pioneer ancestors. Ellsworth’s Seer Bonnets, an offshoot of this work, comprised draping, pearline pioneer bonnets, delineated in thousands of bristling corsage pins. Adding to her orbit of startling, spiritually resonant objects, Ellsworth’s Pantelones series employ meticulous arrangements of pearl-tipped pins of various hues to stake out the embodied form and draw on a history of occult figures. In these pincushion bloomers female intimacy becomes power and a private language is manifested to describe the enduring attraction of the unknown.
“I have always been interested in mysticism, divining powers, and tools of translation, particularly mysticism and psychic potential in relation to women. This relates to the bonnets and the sister-wife performances: The body as a tool for accessing something outside perception. In early Mormon practices, groups of women spoke in tongues together, and one woman was the scribe.”
Ellsworth’s recent bonnet and pantaloon pair, Chiaroveggente: As Above, So Below (33.487549, -112.073994), and Pantaloncini: As Above, So Below (33.487549, -112.073994) refer to a confluence of information, from the personal to the geographical to the clairvoyant. The artist remarks: “The phrase “as above, so below” dates back to Hermeticism…It has become a somewhat common expression stating that whatever happens on earth is aligned with the astral or spiritual realm. For instance, what occurs in the stars can affect our daily lives on earth. This is where the practice of magic and mysticism can be ways of understanding the world we live in.
I am thinking about the ancient Emerald Tablet (attributed to Hermes Trismegistus) in relation to the old-but-not-so-ancient text of the Golden Plates connected to [founder of Mormonism] Joseph Smith. Neither the tablet nor the plates have ever been found (or seen) since their translations.”
As though in a process of pinning down the earthly place for these spiritual conveyances, Ellsworth’s titles include the GPS coordinates of the photograph from which she devised the patterns and color schema for each piece: “The camera faced down to the earth where urban planners and utility companies had spray painted colorful and cryptic markings on the asphalt and sidewalk where interpretations are available to only a few.”
Mayme Kratz, Marie Navarre, and Kim Cridler
March 6 – May 29, 2021
Celebrating a season of renewal and a long-anticipated transition toward new patterns of being, Lisa Sette Gallery’s spring exhibition, Nature & Structure, features works that involve the natural world as both symbol and science: human representations of nature become a vital means of transmitting information toward future generations. Mayme Kratz’s glowing resin castings, Marie Navarre’s serenely inquiring photographic constructions, and Kim Cridler’s steel vessels all illuminate the contradictions at play in a moment of dramatic environmental and social change.
Mayme Kratz is an artist and advocate for the flora and fauna existing within the high deserts of the Southwest. Kratz draws inspiration from the stark beauty of these environments, memorializing not only the botanical treasures that she finds on her restless travels across Western landscapes, but also the overlooked minutiae: In Kratz’s cast resin forms, a handful of gravel or small burrs may be transformed into a likeness of the vast swirling galaxies from which it originates. Kratz captures the ephemeral radiance of these harsh environments and the delicate calibrations of fragile ecosystems. They also provide her with material: seedpods, insect wings, cactus roots, bleached animal bones, leaves, grasses and flowers. Kratz’s precise formal designs lead the viewer to contemplate the infinitely large, calling to mind the cosmos of stars and planets, as well as the impossibly small, alluding to cellular and crystalline structures.
Capturing timeless, universal scenes, such as the abstract pattern of a flock of birds traversing the sky, a spray of branches in early bloom, or horizons unmoored from specific times and places, Marie Navarre’s photo constructions resemble the Japanese haiku form that inspires her. Working with vast collections of images of natural phenomena captured on her travels, Navarre conjures images that appear to be from just outside the realm of human observation. Navarre’s prints are often collaged and hand-stitched over backgrounds of satin-like Gampi paper, enigmatic photographic constructions that document the implications of a moment in nature and in time. “I have this trouble of being a photographer but wanting to make the photographs into something else. I still think like a photographer even though in some ways I’m sabotaging the way that photography works. I still begin my artmaking process by making pictures. I don’t know how to begin without the photograph.”
Kim Cridler’s steel vessels are made up of the angular forms and facets of fabricated metal, but among these angles are unexpected organic treasures: berry-like jewels, beeswax, and horsehair. The juxtaposition of materials allows Cridler to explore vessel forms as a means for holding memory and meaning. “I was making raised hollow ware, like that made by Paul Revere, and was fascinated with the kind of work that carried a lot of sentimental value in families. I learned about my family through these types of things… The reason they were important was the family connections, the memories and the sentiment that invested in the objects, not how they were used. I started making objects that were stripped down, torn apart, because I wanted to get the emotional charge these things carry.”
Mayme Kratz, Marie Navarre, and Kim Cridler convey a relationship between human aesthetic, practice, and biological patterns beyond our control, holding specific memories of our world while introducing the possibility of existence within changed landscapes.
A Call to Action Exhibition in Arizona
The color blue is a latecomer among hues; ancient peoples in Arizona and around the world created the first known artistic expressions in marks of ochre, brown and yellow—colors that could be quickly obtained from the earth. Enduring and effective blue pigments are a product of generations of human experimentation, resulting from processes formulated by natural philosophers and artists from diverse cultures and traditions. When blue pigment did finally enter the story of human expression, its cultural and spiritual impact was unprecedented. Aquamarine, cobalt, and indigo arrived like a miracle, changing the nature of artistic and cultural expression, suggesting the brilliance of the sky, and embodying human aspiration.
blue, a timely exhibition opening this fall at Lisa Sette Gallery, traces the significance of the color blue in art history, while drawing from it a powerful metaphor for the politics of our time. The exhibition was conceived before the coronavirus pandemic, and was set to open in September, 2020, ahead of the presidential election. The opening reception is now delayed until we can gather in a smart and safe manner.
The color blue becomes an agent of change, in both its physical manifestation and in the political philosophy that it represents—and Lisa Sette, the gallery’s founder, sees Arizona as a state on the verge of transformation. All of the artists in blue are from Arizona, or have a strong connection to the state.
“Blue is a color, an emotion, a state of mind and, like our population, it continues to evolve. Now, for us, it is a call to action.”
Including works by Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez, Valerie Hammond, Christopher Jagmin, Alan Bur Johnson, Yves Klein, Michael Koerner, Mayme Kratz, Annie Lopez, Matt Magee, Michael Lundgren, Carrie Marill, Ann Morton, and Hunt Rettig, Blue traces the color as an aesthetic or political ideal, and a theme central to each artist’s conceptual intent.
Blue pigment was once so exalted that it was at times more valuable than gold. In one of art history’s seminal moments, artist Yves Klein invented and patented a distinctive blue pigment: International Klein Blue (IKB). In Table IKB (R) on exhibit at Lisa Sette Gallery, sumptuous drifts of brilliant blue powder are displayed as precious material in a transparent, utilitarian artwork.
Ann Morton combines highly crafted objects with contemporary commentary: The artist’s painstaking, months-long embroidery project encases and transforms an iconic red MAGA hat by means of thousands of small blue stitches. Morton remarks: “In leaving the words but changing the background, the entire perspective changes.” The artist’s meticulous handwork reflects the difficult process of fulfilling the promise the hat’s slogan suggests: National change that is enduring and equitable will require experience and deep engagement.
In Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez’s collaborative installation It’s Mine, I Bought It, gleaming blue-black tassels of synthetic hair, in outsize dimensions, are clever metaphors for displays of power and prestige. A more complex intent is sensed in the material composition of the work: hair as a function of personal confidence and outward identity, and the gathered silhouette form of tassels, which are not merely decorative, but function to prevent unraveling. Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez tie together these notions with contemporary ideas of social hierarchies, and the expectations associated with the presentation of hair, in particular for people of color.
Annie Lopez also explores color as an avenue toward conjuring identity: Her poignant and astounding cyanotype-printed dress is constructed from paper tamale wrappers, and features images of her grandparent’s alien identification cards—they entered the US in 1919. Her work reminds us of the fraught experience of living in a border state as a person of Latin American origin.
Mayme Kratz’s evocative resin sculpture draws attention to the often ignored microcosms of natural symmetry and biological beauty that surrounds us, and is meant to serve as a reminder of the urgent effort we must take to preserve our planet. The current administration has reduced and removed vitally important protections from nearly two million acres of federal public lands that hold incomparable archaeological, paleontological, cultural, and natural significance, and as Kratz remarks: “I am overwhelmed by a sense of longing when I think in terms of what might just…go away. At this moment it feels that if we don’t speak about it, no one is going to.”
Capturing biological ephemera as revelatory aesthetic moments, Alan Bur Johnson’s installations consist of transparent photographic images in multiples of various sizes—visual fragments to investigate fleeting life cycles, physical impermanence, and the fragility of the planet. Commenting on the eclipse formations of his work Baily’s Blues, Bur Johnson remarks: “It feels as though we live in a new dark age, where intelligent thought, kindness, and respect on all levels have been smothered, totally blocked out. I’ve decided to let the blockage of light [eclipse] be a void, giving it no voice. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the peripheral rings of light around an eclipse, known as Baily’s Beads, to address the emerging light, or hope, while voiding out the central darkness.”
In somber, chemical cerulean, Michael Koerner’s work hearkens to an early method of photographic development and to his own family history; his mother survived the bombing of Nagasaki as a child, and Koerner is the sole survivor of his immediate family, the others having succumbed to cancer and genetic disorders. Koerner’s experiences serve as a reminder to his audience of the continuing fallout from such a nuclear option. His stunning tintype print, Finger Prints #6175, presents eerie reactive clouds and crystalline formations produced by collodion on tin. Similarly, Valerie Hammond explores the nuances and fluidity of identity in her exquisitely detailed work, combining in encaustic images of flora, fauna, and the human body to convey both the external and internal forces by which we are shaped. Through fragments of the female form: isolated hands, arms, and heads, Hammond highlights the traces of a gesture—a curled finger, a bent elbow, a flat palm. Hammond says, “I am interested in evoking sensation and making work which is corporeal in nature. While the figures and portraits may begin to point towards or suggest sentiment, it is important to me that the work is not sentimental but experiential.”
Carrie Marill and Christopher Jagmin combine text as a means of aesthetic communication and political commentary as an essential artistic practice. Marrill’s precise and picturesque landscapes against a blue background feature serene images of Arizona’s sandstone spires, yet propose a poignant ethical inquiry in the accompanying text. Christopher Jagmin’s brightly hued text paintings reference pop culture, advertising and the self-help movement and speak to the crush of information that storms our screened devices, making life yet more cluttered and complicated. From this emotional tidal wave, Jagmin seeks the common anxieties and joys that we share. “Sometimes it is cathartic, and maybe even healing, to think about our fears: to write them out and face them. I don’t promise any less fear with this project, but I know that I have become braver after seeing my fears on paper.”
Matt Magee finds inspiration in scientific, ecological, and technological ideas with references to ancient traditions like map-making and hieroglyphics. An examination of how throwaway culture trains us to associate certain colors and materials with concepts like cleanliness, Magee’s tapestry-like suspended sculptures are assembled of deconstructed blue plastic detergent bottles. The artist comments: “Recycling and the belief that our recyclable waste is in fact recycled, is a falsehood. By repurposing detergent bottles, an awareness is brought forward that there may be other ways to recycle, that sustainability may actually exist in a material that is otherwise thrown away.”
Michael Lundgren creates haunting and starkly beautiful photographs using multi-layered manipulation within the camera and the darkroom. Lundgren’s Current is a part of the Geomancy series, which refers to the method of interpreting sedimental markings and patterns on the ground. Says Lundgren, “Landscape has always been an invitation for me into the mystical, for that which is beyond our rational understanding of the world. I’ve hoped to make photographs that act as parallels for that entrance, that invite the viewer to contemplate a world that they do not understand and in so doing, to arrest their own world view.”
In a related ode to form and color, Hunt Rettig’s elegant assemblages of polyester films and synthetic rubber feature looping, circular shapes, pure color, and biomorphic forms, showcasing his sensibility for the organic, the cellular, and the sensual shapes of our natural world. “Within my terrain I see cross sections of cross sections, unnatural confluences, unnavigable borders, unrestricted constriction and breath-like expansion.”
Each work in blue exemplifies an engagement with cultural transformation. Often, the artists offer an oblique or direct challenge to the economic and societal structures that give rise to states of corruption and willful ignorance. And yet in the gesture of challenging the current state of affairs, and in the action of working raw materials into something uniquely reflective of the human experience, the artists of blue, like the color blue, offer the infinite hope of progress in this simple promise: we will always develop new ways of seeing the world, and of sharing that vision with one another.
Exclusive Online Exhibition
Still lifes that hum with movement and energy, David Kroll’s limpid oil-on-linen paintings delineate a compelling new dimension, a deliberate and serene juxtaposition of motion and time in contemplative space. The compositional center of many of Kroll’s paintings is a patterned or filigreed vessel displayed along with a collection of living creatures or organic matter; these subjects are foregrounded against deep, mysterious natural landscapes. As in the practice of meditation, the viewer’s attention hovers between the silent, unknowable distance beyond and the vivid now before our eyes, and in witnessing Kroll’s paintings we are drawn into an uncanny place between.
I paint personal refuges in the form of still lives and imagined landscapes—places to visit for solace, meditation and sanctuary. I work intuitively to create a connection between the viewer and the power of place, the web of life, the idea of nature itself.
Such congruences of stillness and action, life and dream, captured flawlessly in stately layers of oil and lacquer, take time to create, and an opportunity to view David Kroll’s recent works is rare and significant. Kroll, who divides his time between Washington state and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has been exhibiting work in North America for four decades; his work’s luminous verisimilitude captivates and confounds viewers in a way that connects it to both contemporary, conceptual painting and traditional realism. In Nature as Manifesto, an essay about Kroll’s work, the artist Buzz Spector writes, “Kroll is not a moralist; his deliberately spare arrangements of pictorial elements are a way to push back against our yearning to find a narrative in these exquisitely crafted scenes.”
Kroll says “Thematically I am interested in the interaction between man, and manmade objects, and nature. In a painted still life these ideas collapse on each other and raise many questions. Which is more beautiful—a rural landscape or a Chinese vase? Which is more alive, which is more still?”
An immediate and fascinating contradiction in many of Kroll’s works are his depictions of living things. Fish, birds, and reptiles populate the paintings’ centers with a quickness of pose and clarity of expression that suggest dynamic movement; the sinewy curve of a koi mid-turn, or the hesitant, transfixing glance of a small bird perched atop a vase, are intriguing and surreal in contrast to the timeless vessels and backgrounds around which these living things hover and shift.
Existence is Elsewhere
Sadly we are not able to see our friends and supporters in New York City at Paris Photo NY/AIPAD this spring. Please find some joy in Gilbert Garcin’s photographs and stay safe and well! – Lisa Sette
La Ciotat, France
Gilbert Garcin: Existence is Elsewhere
Gilbert Garcin’s photographs engage us as philosophical archaeology, as surrealist theater, and as contemporary allegory.
The artist himself, often portrayed in a dark overcoat, serves as an every-person character, his works honed upon humanity’s current, perhaps timeless, crisis of conscience: the unbearable frictions of our relationships to ourselves and one another in an overwhelmingly complex and interconnected world.
Garcin’s dream-like constructions produce seamless manipulation of light, depth and proportion. Each carefully arranged scene is unconcerned with digital distractions and uncluttered with extraneous objects – created from handmade sets and cut-out figures.
Garcin’s ingenious photographs remind us that even amidst monumental darkness, we can continue to find unexplainable sources of light.
Most images are available as 8 x 12”, 12 x 16” and 20 x 24” gelatin silver prints made in editions of 8 or 12 in each size, depending on the image.
Please call: (480) 990 – 7342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for prices of specific pieces. Please note: additional works are available beyond exhibition images shown below.
The Gallery and our artists are so grateful for your continued support.
Our physical space may be temporarily closed but we would love to hear from you.
POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
PARIS PHOTO NEW YORK presented with AIPAD
Pier 94, New York City
Opening Preview: Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Thursday, April 2nd to Saturday, April 4th, 2020: 12 – 7pm
Sunday, April 5th, 2020: 12 – 6pm
Purchase Tickets HERE
Gilbert Garcin: Existence is Elsewhere
Gilbert Garcin’s photographs, an interconnected series of dream scenarios and ingenious constructions, engage us as philosophical archaeology, as surrealist theater, and as contemporary allegory. Each carefully-arranged scene communicates a narrative about lived humanity’s essential themes—this ongoing spectacle of shattering heartbreak and magnificent ridiculousness. That Garcin’s images also unfailingly deliver a shot of humor—the absurd delight of recognition—as an essential ingredient in this existential drama, is a tribute to the acuity of the creator. Garcin spent forty years managing a lamp manufactory in Marseilles; his career as an artist commenced at age 65. Now 90, the photographer accesses a remarkable breadth of perspective, experience, and illumination.
Unconcerned with digital distractions and uncluttered with extraneous objects, Garcin’s photographs produce seamless manipulations of light, depth and proportion, each expertly art-directed in the photographer’s own home. The artist himself, often in a dark overcoat, serves as an every-person character—Garcin remarks that he aspires to “Tarzan, Charlot (Chaplin) or Hulot (Tati).” Mister G, as this character is known to Garcin’s admirers, is represented by a small cut-out portrait of the artist, with a flatness of physical countenance and clipped edges that are perceptible or not, as the composition requires. Amidst an ingeniously simple landscape of sets and props, Mister G enacts moments of triumph, narcissism, obsession and inquisitiveness.
“It’s a little naïve as systems go,” says the artist, “People always think I use all sorts of sophisticated technology. Not at all.”
While the artist may take pride in his prosaic methodology, the discrete poetic concepts Garcin employs to illustrate his notions arrive directly from the land of myth. And in the manner of myth, his works are honed upon humanity’s current, perhaps timeless, crisis of conscience: the unbearable frictions of our relationships to ourselves and one another in an overwhelmingly complex and interconnected world. In Le Paon (The Peacock), Mister G holds aloft a formidable structure of picture frames, each featuring an identical self portrait. While nothing in the image itself refers specifically to digital culture, a contemporary viewer is immediately and poignantly brought to mind of the endless proliferation of eager self-portraiture and self-promotion in the social media era. In the image, the small man and his photographic trophy appear as a miracle of dimension; the viewer might wonder how Mister G keeps his balance holding up this immense contraption. How does one move forward with such an encumbrance of ego? The proud expression on the character’s face shows that he hasn’t considered this problem yet. Of course, for the viewer the punchline is apparent.
L’Attraction du Vide (The attraction of the void) is a composition of devastating simplicity, as Mister G, his back facing the viewer, peers into a bright, empty void beyond a gilt picture frame. No other information is offered; we must decide for ourselves whether the central character looks so intently toward this void with dread, hesitance, or curiosity, or some combination thereof. How to proceed, when faced with the unknown? It seems an urgent question at the heart of our current forward-speeding existence. And in the vein of 20th century Surrealism that Garcin’s work traces, such a question is countered quite succinctly: There is no correct way forward, no final, comprehensive means of expression. In the penultimate sentence of his 1924 Surrealist manifesto, Breton asserts:
“It is living and ceasing to live which are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere.”
Nonetheless, life presents decisions that must be made. A series of impressions and automatic reactions, as both methods of Surrealist practice and means of existence, bring forth no concrete answers, but transitory and occasionally transcendent moments of art. Le Yin et le Yang (ou les Malevich choisissent un tapis) (Yin and Yang (or Malevich’s choosing a carpet)) pays homage to—and pokes fun at—the notion that a momentous instant of global aesthetic change, from representation to abstraction, say, might in fact relate the malleable moments of our own lives. Mister G and another figure—charmingly played by Garcin’s wife—hover over squares of black and white, making both an interior design decision and a reference to Malevich’s iconic Black Square. Aesthetic insight is a mysterious property, not to be confused with an assumption of reason and rightness, and it is telling that the figures in Yin and Yang seem as flattened as the black and white geometries they hover above.
La Vie Est Belle (Life is Beautiful) presents a diminutive Mister G hemmed in by an ominous suggestion of man-made cliffs and angles. At the edge, the composition’s small hero stands above an enigmatic glow, arms raised in triumph. The source of this brilliance is unknown, and the surrounding darkness is fierce. In such circumstances it would be easy to deny the premise of the title, but Mister G’s posture, and the radiance illuminating him from below, make this a bittersweet tableau—amidst monumental darkness, we continue to find these unexplainable sources of light.