Marine Contemporary is delighted to present “Birds of Passage”, Debra Scacco’s debut U.S. solo show. The London based artist’s practice is centered around defining the concept of ‘home’. Born in 1970’s New York to an Italian family, ethnic ties instilled in her both a devotion to family in the truest sense and ownership of a history not strictly her own. These ties paired with geographic displacement, mean that she is perpetually in a transient state: in between places, in between origins, in between roles, and ultimately in between the person she feels she should be and the person she has become. The result of this constant emotional flux is a lifelong fixation with what ‘home’ is, and the seeming impossibility of belonging.
The outcome of this fixation is a body of work based on the artist’s personal diaries. Each piece created from a sentence persistently repeated, the obsessive text-based drawings attempt to project a magical chimera. Intimate and compulsive, the composition of the work from a distance resembles dots or fragmented lines. On closer inspection, word after word reveals itself, creating an organic ebb and flow within a rigid visual language. The works are both somber reflections over choices made throughout a lifetime, and contemplations on the future: all in the hope of helping to discover what (or where) is ‘home’.
Every element of Scacco’s work is carefully considered, from the number of works chosen to the words that contour the works themselves. In this case, the core of the exhibition is composed of seven large-scale maps. This is the number of varying geographies significant to the artist’s personal history. In each drawing of these seven key territories, there is no sense of scale - each is a nowhere place floating in white space. In each of these places, there is a single fragmenting feature: something that divides the city / state / country. Whether it be a river, a highway, or borders between countries, the way that geographies fragment (and therefore determine where we are ‘from’) are ultimately the first step in defining us.
The circle as the key shape to populate these territories was chosen for all it symbolizes: the cartographic vernacular of ‘you are here’, the idea of a continuous whole, the parallel between the circle and endlessness. With each set of circles existing within a square, Scacco has reduced the framework of each drawing to the most basic graphic elements.
According to Scacco, “The phrases for these seven territories bring to light feelings on my past.” They are: We do not belong, Traces are all I have, All I ask is one more day, I owe everything, Where does it begin, I cannot reach you, and I am trapped in your shadow.
‘Promise you will never fade away’ marks an expanded focus: evolving the black and white ink on paper drawings into layered watercolors, incorporating text over a base painting. Used to create an organic division between land and sea, the paint takes on a loose and even slightly violent quality: like stormy seas or inky tears on the page. All of the painted pieces deal with the concept of ‘promise’, as they are purely about fears of what will happen in the future — fear of the new, fear of loss, fear of change and in some ways, fear of the future itself.
Birds of Passage is both literally and metaphorically the central piece to the show. The term ‘Birds of Passage’ was used to refer to early 20th century immigrants who traveled to America in search of migratory labor. The intent was always to return back to their homeland permanently, but only a small percentage of Italian immigrants did so. A three- dimensional map, it sits in the center of the gallery, charting the location and relationships between the territories depicted in the drawings. This installation work also incorporates the ‘islands’ from the purely fictional landscape as seen in Promise you will never fade away: tying together the fragmented real and wholly fictional to create an imagined utopia. This sculpture is a shrine to a place that can never exist. Made of approximately 4,000 intricately cut gold plated beads, it feels protected, precious, untouchable. The sea of cut gold sits on a white acrylic sheet, inside a protective case. Reminiscent of the kind of jewelry an Italian child may receive on their first Communion, cuts in the gold allow light to play throughout them, casting beautiful reflections; the undulating sparkle becoming an illusory sea that surrounds these fragile, isolated worlds.
Scacco has always looked at her past to try and resolve these issues of guilt, restlessness and lack of belonging. What she had not yet addressed is what this means in physical terms. She wanted to create a purely fictional place - a kind of escapist utopia. But where is it? Can it exist? Should she keep moving until she finds it? This new body of work addresses these issues by creating a world that blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction.
Debra Scacco (b. 1976, New York, USA) received a BA in Studio Art from Richmond University (London, 1998). She has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, including The Royal Academy Summer Show (Royal Academy of Arts, London), Jerwood Drawing Prize (Jerwood Gallery, London followed by UK tour), and Viper Basel (Basel, Switzerland). She currently lives and works in London.
About Marine Contemporary
Established in 2011 by Claressinka Anderson, Marine Contemporary focuses on vital, concept-led contemporary work in all media. The gallery has a particular focus on emerging and mid-career artists from the U.S and the U.K.
Marine Contemporary is an expansion of Marine Art Salon, which was established in 2009 and continues its salon program along side Marine Contemporary, focusing on collection-based shows in the domestic setting.
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