OFF / GRID
September 15 - December 15, 2023
Alyssa McClenaghan, Gyan Shrosbree, Kate Steciw, Aurora Pellizzi & Amanda Valdez
377 Main Street Catskill NY
Alyssa McClenaghan, She Would Tell Him She Could Not Wait, 2020, Foam Insulation, Joint Compound, Acrylic Exterior House Paint, 18 1/2 × 44 × 25 in
OFF / GRID
“In a spatial sense, the grid states the autonomy of the realm of art. Flattened, geometricized, ordered, it is anti-natural, anti-mimetic, anti-real. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature.” - From Rosalind Krauss’ 1979 essay ‘Grids’, October
JEFF Gallery and Hands on Main are pleased to present “Off / Grid”, an exhibition of five female artists working in photographic collage (Kate Steciw), sculpture (Alyssa McClenaghan), painting (Gyan Shrosbree) and textiles (Aurora Pellizzi and Amanda Valdez).
While the works of these artists are contained within principles germane to their respective material pursuits, each have found ways to explode conceptual, spiritual and spatial constructs within those formal constraints. To that end, they show us the way forward to our not too distant future, not on grid or “off” but to a world in which nature and technology co-exist as one.
Whether we decide to use technology or not, we’re either on the grid or off it. The power grid, the architectural grid, the computer grid, in the 21st century grids dictate the pattern and connectivity of our increasingly technological lives. Few places are we actually “off” the grid except perhaps, illusory, in wilds of upstate NY where these artist’s works have found a home in Catskill for the time being.
Historically, the grid in art has been used as a way of organizing abstract space. Unlike perspective, the grid does not map the space of a room or a landscape or a group of figures. The grid is less about context than it is about Being or Mind or Spirit; a staircase to the Universal, it assumes a kind of disembodied viewpoint. But contrary to this idea, while each of these artists engages in a kind of universal belief (in the value of artistic expression, if anything) each come from a decidedly (feminine) relationship to their bodies, abstract but grounded, figurative but suggestive, emblematic and mystical all at once. With these artists a kind of new belief system emerges, one that masquerades as science but brings us closer to a kind of divine logic.
Kate Steciw uses digital imagery as raw material, which she at times shapes into sculptures but here, with these works, presents in painterly form. Each piece is a unique collage affixed onto canvas and framed. For Kate, the grid is a lens for looking at everyday shapes scaled up and weightless; a drop cloth, a parachute, a crab leg and a saturated sky, a shiny slug, pink ballet shoes. Her objects place us in the world unsure of our stature in it. We are both spectator and voyeur, citizen and commodity, subject and object to Kate’s tactile visuals. In this way Kate re-frames the world inviting us to locate ourselves within ecosystems of entertainment, commerce and conjecture. She reminds us the allure of the image, its power and its slipperiness.
Light pink, mauve and burgundy sculptures by Alyssa McClenaghan suggest the flesh but evoke mechanical systems in form and are titled narratively; an unnamed “she” pays her bills, wishes she had a cigarette, tells him she cannot wait. For Alyssa, whether robot or human, we all contain an order. Alyssa’s grid isn’t linear or mythical, it’s a nexus of energy; currents of air, light or flesh that power her automated forms. Radiators, window sashes, a high art ramp, Alyssa’s works evoke everyday objects, but court the unexpected. The weight of a window sash is on view, delicately protruding. Bodily parts and gestures are incorporated with nonchalance. As if to say, what’s the difference between the mechanics of us (women) and the systems we use (robots). Made from foam, insulation, joint compound and house paint Alyssa’s works parade as masculine but in looking closer, we realize they are unabashedly feminine, showing us their nuts & bolts from the inside out.
In creating her woven, painted and sewn works, Amanda Valdez has created her own definition of a painterly abstraction using the canvas as jumping off point for her fluid compositions. Her larger works titled “Breaking Wave 2 and 3” are a study in “breaking the grid" while conforming to it’s ethos. Small works arranged in squares, with pieces missing, the configuration becomes an ode to leaving things unsaid. Amanda’s smaller works made in a similar fashion recall her interest in natural forms such as hills, lakes, rocks or wombs, all subjects that the artist comes back to again and again. With her ambition to create multiple affects in one work, Amanda threads, weaves, paints and sews her works together, making vibrating cross sections of texture across the surface of her “paintings”. In this way her works are prescient and futuristic, calling forth a time in which all things collide to make the whole. Amanda, a descendent of the Pattern and Decoration Movement, updates their manners with her lithe inventions.
Gyan Shrosbree and Aurora Pellizzi, of the five artists in this show share not only a relationship not to a literal figuration as such but to what I refer to as the abstract figurative. To this end, they are the link between works that hint at the female body and those that espouse a more representational depiction.
In Gyan Shrosbree’s paintings we see abstract shapes that upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be women’s shoes, painted in neon hues. Some of the paintings are cut up and woven back together, a nod to the construction of accessories or leather. Her simplistic paintings fulfill our materialistic desires, allowing us to indulge in the allure of fashion while merely looking. Gyan’s works, while figurative are abstract in concept, feeding our desire for luxury and excess while allowing us to intellectualize these ambitions. Gyan’s gridded paintings are connected to the body only in concept, her objects meant to adorn, fetishize what isn’t present, whereas, Aurora’s works brazenly remind us of the gilded flesh.
Aurora Pellizzi’s felted works from 2019, reference the canvas in their square shape but in contrast to paintings hers float off the wall affixed with magnets to a metal cross bar almost like flags. If they were indeed flags they would be for a pro female sovereign, one for whom the female body is revered. She abstracts its parts into lines, dunes and pleasing slopes, sacred geometries that contain a persuasive spirit. If ”the grid's mythic power is that it makes us able to think we are dealing with materialism (or sometimes science, or logic) while at the same time it provides us with a release into belief (or illusion, or fiction),” then Aurora’s felt flags are future symbols, mythical messages lighting the way to where we’re headed.
In her 1979 essay “Grids” art historian Rosalind Krauss claims the appearance of the grid in visual art to be not only the abandonment of “nature” - the abstraction or rejection of the “real world” - but also declares the grid as an emblem of “the modernity of modern art.” But from our 2023, post-pandemic view, the concept of an art historical past present or future itself seems out of sync, linear time itself represents an overly rigid idea of temporal experience. What these artists espouse with their works is a future grid, one that incorporates the real, the abstract and the spiritual. A grid that we can all connect to, when needed, a universal energy that is both natural and technological, masculine and feminine, scientific and mysterious.