When Joan Linder draws something she tends to do it with such intensity that the image on the page makes a monument out of whatever her subject may be. For her fifth solo show at Mixed Greens Linder’s subject is her kitchen sink: a standard double-bowl fixture in stainless steel with a single-headed faucet that has a pullout spray option and a drying rack in one bowl. She’s depicted it three different ways in eleven new works that collectively invest this sink with the status of an icon. In these works the quiet labor of a household chore—doing the dishes—is elevated to the rank of an exalted domestic ritual.
The exhibition includes five works rendered in meticulously drawn ink lines. Roughly the size of movie posters, each of these black and white drawings isolates the sink on the page so that it exists in a kind of spatial vacuum. Context is created through the household objects that accumulate in and around the sink, while the act of cleaning is suggested in the works’ titles. Of the five, four are distinguished by the brand of soap in the picture.
All but one these works hang together in a line and the variety and condition of objects that have been variously piled or stacked offsets the consistency of the drawings’ sizes and the repetition of Linder’s effort. Sometimes the dishes have been done, sometimes they haven’t. More than one work gives the impression that the task has been abandoned midway through, as in Sink (Seventh Generation) (2013). From the objects in this drawing one can infer (or imagine) a distinction between dinner dishes drying in the rack and breakfast wares waiting to be scrubbed. If the two bowls of Linder’s sink can be compared to the ends of an hourglass, then all her cookware is like sand passing back and forth from one side to the other over and over again.
Joan Linder; Courtesy of the artist & Mixed Greens Gallery
In these drawings the passage of time is registered through clean and dirty dishes. Time is felt in the slow and careful accumulation of lines on the page, in the density of crosshatched panhandles and pot lids. There is a steady and enduring sense of discipline in the drawings that brings to mind the patient mentality of a long distance runner. In contrast to these, Linder’s colored sinks are like a series of wind sprints. Whereas the former presented the sink in tremendous high definition detail, the latter are a tangle of outlines that account for the effort of recording as much as they record their object at all.
On average, Linder makes between six and nine drawings on each sheet of paper, all of which are distinguished by a variation in color. Instead of pens, the artist used markers, which give a thicker, more juicy quality of line. Along the bottom edge she notes the date and time of day for each rendering, which reads like a legend on map. In some instances she makes multiple drawings every day, in others she allows the gap to extend over weeks. It really makes no difference to the look of the piece. The layering accumulates and is compressed on the page so that very little (if any) space exists between the sessions.
These are fun pieces and they have a slightly cinematic character to them, as if a stop motion animation had been packed into a single frame. There is quickness and a sense of spontaneity in the character of the markers’ lines that lends these pieces an airy quality despite the compacted appearance of numerous over-drawings. The most impressive piece of the show however is an absolutely incredible accordion book. Spread out on a tilted wall shelf so that all of its pages are visible, Counter, sink (2013) is a masterpiece of observation and painstaking recreation.
All the objects that feature in her other sink drawings are gathered together here along with an impressive collection of kitchen appliances. At roughly thirteen feet long, the drawing sprawls like a Chinese landscape on a scroll. Despite the epic proportions at stake, Counter, sink was executed in the same fastidious cross hatching technique as the black and white drawings, except in this case Linder used colored pens. As a result, everything pops with a degree of brightness unchecked by any form of shadow. It is almost too much for one’s eye to take in, but once you start scrutinizing the details Linder has so painstakingly rendered, it’s hard to look away.
(Image on top: Joan Linder, Sink, 2012; Courtesy of the artist & Mixed Greens Gallery.)