Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unfreedom opens in Ulm

I'm happy to announce that Unfreedom opened today in Ulm.

Here's our press release (which I wrote).


Molly Stevens, Carin Riley, Jean Hannon Douglas

July 21 - September 24

Smudajescheck Galerie, Rabegasse 16, 89073, Ulm, Germany

Entrenched is the habit of looking at art through dualistic categories: abstract or figurative, pencil or paint, light or dark. These can certainly be helpful as conceptual tools for approaching visual language. But they also can be arbitrary, simplistic and at times even tyrannical. As they pile up, a work’s immediate, nameless punch is crushed. The art is unfree. Free your mind and the art will follow.

Now consider these words uttered in a 1974 lecture by artist Philip Guston:
When you begin painting you’re too free. That’s why it’s always so painful to start a new picture, or to start the process again, because you have to go through the whole thing again and again. To get rid of the freedom, you might say. I think what is happening is that you’re getting to a state of unfreedom. […] And paradoxically, when you can only do this and not that […] you’re more free in some mysterious, metaphysical way.
Unfree your mind and the art will follow.

Unfreedom is an exhibit about this contradiction inherent in art-viewing and art-making. And also about the vibrancy of contradiction itself.

Carin Riley’s dry pastel and paint drawings communicate like a visual koan, a paradox admitting no logical solution, but demanding intuitive understanding. In the narrative here involving a bird, a dress and a tree, her lines are lithe but solid, fluid but unwavering. The work obeys the dictates of form and movement, which are in a delicate balance.

In Jean Hannon Douglas’s plants, the leaves are uncertain, erratic, quirky, and as such, represent the impermanent individuality of the repeated subject. At the same time, what you’re looking at is elemental brush and ink, its strokes, bleeds and varying densities of black. We are in between representation and material properties, illusion and marks on a page.

Molly Stevens’s heads in oil stick are meaty, simplified forms rendered with vigor. Although bound to the Ancients and even pre-history, they are decisively contemporary. Their saturated color and sturdy linework are bold yet unexpected, simultaneously familiar and out of whack.

These three Americans have come together not in the name of freedom but to defend unfreedom, a deferment to conflict.

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