Chronologies and Circumstances
Chronologies and Circumstances:
Between Individual and Collective Trajectories
Kunstraum's Annual Members Show
July 18 – August 1, 2021
Opening: Sunday, July 18, 4-6 PM
Public Tour: Saturday, July 24, 1-2 PM
Curated by Anthony Huffman
Artists: Katerina Ganchak, Jason Innocent, Alexandra Jamieson,
Michael N. Meyer, Rita Nannini, Alen Saran, and Igor Simic
In our contemporary moment, displacement is a defining characteristic—either due to climate change, geopolitical developments, or public health crises—forcing individuals to occupy new physical and mental positions. This shift in positionality can afford a better vantage point to understand the past, observe conditions shaping the present, and potentially help chart alternative trajectories for the future. From this new outlook, a host of questions arise: How much control do I have over my own life and the course of human history? Is humanity on a slow, steady march towards progress, or must individuals consistently reaffirm or win back hardfought truths, values, and ideas? Can we measure civilizational growth, and if so, what are the widely accepted metrics? What are the conditions necessary to bring about significant social, political, and cultural change?
Chronologies and Circumstances brings together the work of Kunstraum studio members as well as former and current artists-in-residence to probe these questions and spur critical dialogues about selfhood, agency, historical forces, and individual/collective timelines. In media spanning painting, drawing, watercolor, digital art, sound, photography, and video, these multidisciplinary artists give form to, reflect upon, and contend with some of the forces, structures, and systems directing our lives—often in impercitible ways. Significantly, the exhibition presents the perspectives of artists from different generations and cultural backgrounds, bringing into sharp relief that some societal forces and institutional structures disproportionately impact certain groups. Like the strategies employed by the artists, the exhibition itself asks viewers to be conscious of how movement between works is an exercise in adopting diverse dispositions to gain a sense of one's own bearings.
In Katerina Ganchak’s richly colored paintings Out There (2019) and Inside Out (2020), she engages with the history of the sublime and gives visual expression to humanity’s plight in the face of all-powerful forces and events. In tandem with her subtle and metaphorical use of light, the smooth mounds, rows, and bands of acrylic paste invite viewers into the haptic work. Her laboriously worked surfaces evoke landscape features, such as ridges, valleys, chasms, enclosures, and voids. At the same time, her work might be understood as referencing the body, with the folds of space and time transforming into musculature and microscopic passageways. There is a suspended, meditative sense of being in Ganchak’s sculptural paintings, impelling viewers to contemplate their coordinates on a grand scale and their own personal timelines. Indeed, her titles call attention to notions of interiority, exteriority, and location.
These motifs of time, scale, and control can also be seen in Michael N. Meyer’s works: One Pixel One Second #1b955820 (2021), Blank.Signal #8403d59c (2021), and Transmittal (2021). In his single-pixel works printed on aluminum, he strips the process down to reduce the capture and display of an image to present observers with a timed-based signal in transmission. Meyer describes these works as meditations on the socio-political impact of technological structures, demonstrating how much processing and manipulation occurs in the production, distribution, and consumption of visual data. His interrogation of devices used to send, receive, and interpret media reveals that seemingly benign technological forces and processes subtly mold our perception of self and the world more broadly.
Just as Meyer pares down images, breaking down layers of pixels, Jason Innocent takes a similar approach to signifying systems like language in his extensive drawing practice. Making use of stark white copy paper and black Sharpie marker, the Brooklyn-based artist draws upon disparate vernaculars, including source material from street culture (signage and slang), popular culture (cartoons and film), and academic textbooks (diagrams, graphs, and formulas). In the four works included in this show, he uses materials and a format that recalls learning exercises—arranging words and images in a didactic manner. This composition allows the conceptual artist to tinker with signs to explore hierarchies of language and fields of power—exposing the acts of naming, labeling, and classifying as human attempts to impose order on the universe. Innocent’s works on paper highlight the fact that language is a formidable force that structures the spheres we inhabit and navigate on a daily basis.
The four photographs from Rita Nannini’s Ana Chronos series anchor discourses initiated by Ganchak, Meyer, and Innocent in specific moments of invention, change, and progress. Nannini’s black-and-white photographs bring well-known and lesser-known historical personages into the present. She juxtaposes printout portraits of Emily Warren Roebling and Harriet Tubman with contemporary viewers and environs, thereby prompting spectators to think about how their legacies and contributions impacted various chronologies. Of course, there are connections between Nannini’s photographs of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison to Meyer’s investigation into technological devices and the history of telecommunications. Yet, there are deeper, more intriguing points of convergence as both artists touch upon the role images play in the construction of memory and history.
Images and image-making can also be a process for personal reflection and confrontation of past events, as they are in the work of Alexandra Jamieson. Her watercolor painting from the Our Stories series is a deeply intimate and vulnerable portrait that documents the processing of intergenerational trauma and familial crises. Each daub, streak, and tache, all rendered in shades of quinn rose, indigo, and yellow ochre, can be interpreted as analogous to genetic coding and sequencing. Her handling of materials is comparable to grappling with predetermined conditions or circumstances beyond one’s control and forging a better path forward—which resonates with Ganchak’s canvases. Jamieson’s other work in the exhibition, from her Celestial Sunflowers suite of paintings, speaks to her abiding interest in science-fiction and projecting alternative possibilities onto other realms.
In Let’s Dance...For Fear This Life Is All (2021), blending time, space, and historico-cultural references, Alen Saran envisions one potential pathway if humankind refuses to address the climate crisis. His apocalyptic landscape is an admonitory vision of the future, with a slightly dark sense of humor embedded. Over the years, Saran has consistently engaged with themes such as the rise and fall of empires; the passage of time; and intergenerational vision. In keeping with his other painted works, this transfixing tableau contains a variety of materials (acrylic, gel, paste, and water pastels) worked to a high degree. Like Jamieson’s manipulation of watercolor to explore personal histories and individual autonomy, Saran’s layering and treatment of materials is invested with metaphorical significance. The painted surface, filled with accretions, scratches, and scumbling, can be seen as an analogue to overlapping timelines, erasure, and historical processes in general.
Within the same prophetic vein, Igor Simic’s Sublime Search Engine (2017) presents a dystopian short film where a search engine gradually gains consciousness and exerts control over its users. Where Meyer offers a soft critique of how visual data is manipulated, Simic delivers a more trenchant commentary on technology companies, data, privacy, and surveillance. In the eloquent, mesmerizing, and disturbing monologue, the disembodied yet charismatic voice proscribes its terms and conditions as ten commandments, rattling off strings of words in amusing rhymes. The rapid succession of listing and naming—imitating computer processing and logic—ties into Innocent’s play with language, meaning, and chains of signification. Towards the end of the video, a complicated matrix materializes, revealing that humans are individual nodes in a vast, interconnected network—one increasingly shaped by forces beyond their control.
Public Tour with Curator & Artists
Saturday, July 24, 2021 1-2 PM
As part of the public programming for Chronologies and Circumstances, Kunstraum LLC will host an exhibition walkthrough with curator-in-residence Anthony Huffman and a select number of exhibiting artists. The tour is an opportunity to more closely consider how the works are in conversation, reflect on the central themes, and pose questions to the organizer and artists. While not required, if you plan to attend the event, kindly RSVP by emailing the address listed below.
Address: Kunstraum LLC, 20 Grand Ave, Space 509, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Hours: Thu - Sat 12-6 PM by appointment only – please contact us first!
Contact: Anthony Huffman, 606.521.5576, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image credit: Igor Simic, Sublime Search Engine, 2017