Human life entails, in fact, the rage of seeing oneself as a back and forth
movement from refuse to the ideal, and from the ideal to refuse – a
rage that is easily directed against an organ as base as the foot.
- Excerpt from Georges Bataille’s The Big Toe
Wallspace is pleased to present The Big Toe, an exhibition that brings together a group of artists whose work explores a range of oppositional relationships including repression/expression, high/low and baseness/beauty. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Georges Bataille’s essay in which he argues that the big toe, as a form, elevates and distinguishes us from animals, filth and death at the same time as it connects and binds us to those elements. The artists in this exhibition are united by their interest in the space between these polarities.
Talia Chetrit (Brooklyn, NY) uses traditional photographic props such as vases and velvet backdrops in her photographs that play in tropes of still life, portraiture, commercial photography and landscape. In her most recent body of work, Chetrit upends classical representations of the female nude by obscuring body parts with stylized glass vases, resulting in a fragmented image that denies and entices a voyeuristic gaze. For this exhibition, Chetrit contributes Vagina/Vase (Imprint), which documents the impression of the model’s bottom on a black velvet backdrop. Here, the figure asserts itself through its absence, and the residual markings suggest the baseness and impermanence of the human form.
Harry Dodge (Los Angeles, CA) contributes a group of drawings of primordial creatures and base forms that explore notions of brutality, precariousness and resilience. His cartoon-like figures occupy the interstices between unnameability and articulation, high and low, humor and tragedy, offering a raucous and poignant narrative of human psychology. Dodge will open his first solo show at Wallspace, Frowntown, at the end of next month.
Martha Friedman (Brooklyn, NY) contributes Licked, a sculpture comprised of two concrete and rubber tongues that rest on salvaged wood bases. The tongues – cast from real cow tongues and enlarged to six times their size – evince the violence (amputation, regurgitation, castration) implicit in their making, while the collision of materials creates a palpable tension. Friedman will have a solo exhibition at Wallspace in September.
Gaylen Gerber with Adrian Schiess (Chicago, Il and Le Locle, Switzerland) contributes a series of cooperative works made in 2003 in which Schiess paints on top of Gerber’s signature grey monochromes. Here, the tension between expression and sublimation are explicitly foregrounded, as the restraint and neutrality of Gerber’s monochromes succumb beneath Schiess’ painterly gestures and intestine-like protrusions.
Daniel Gordon (Brooklyn, NY) includes a selection of works from his 31 Days project, where he made one work every day for a month, a noted departure from his typically labor-intensive practice. Using his usual cut and paste technique, Gordon builds tableaux that explore the explicit charge of the grotesque and aggressively corporeal.
Melodie Mousset (Los Angeles, CA) contributes Impulsive Control, a video in which ceramist Mark Vromstein makes a series of clay vessels on top of the artist’s head. Naked with her head obscured from view (calling to mind Bataille’s headless Acephale), Mousset spins on the potter’s wheel while Vromstein manipulates, molds and collapses clay forms on top of her. Here, body and material literally collide, evoking forms that conjure elegant, carnal and grotesque associations.
Johannes VanderBeek (New York, NY) contributes a painting from his Sky Impression series. Using industrial foam insulation as a ground, VanderBeek cuts, carves and marks the substrate before layering acrylic paint onto its furrowed surface. VanderBeek’s process and visual language mimic the subconscious underpinnings of action painting; while the mass-produced materials combined with the luminosity of the surface, evince a welcome play between the aspirational and the commodified.