If this show had a motion it would be centripetal, and the energy generator would be the lithesome red-headed vixen Cameron Parsons (1922-1995), poet, mystic, actress, artist, whose ink drawings are like observations of other dimensions. Curators Amanda Friedman and Taylor Trabulus picked up on the exploratory impulse in Cameron’s practice and looked for connections in the contemporary landscape. The ten artists they chose may not be oriented to the same occult-compass that guided Cameron, but each is an enigmatic practitioner, a seeker of transformation whose art works tend towards expressions of the familiar made strange and full of wonder.
Gyan Panchal, Baubajai, 2012, Insulation and silver leaf. Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.
Of the four drawings by Cameron in the show, two are figurative and in them the eyes appear deeply set in dark inky pools or are altogether blacked out. Where the eyes are visible they look to be seeing something both alluring and alarming, the kind of spectacle you’re perhaps drawn to watch though you know you maybe shouldn’t. I felt like the face in that drawing could have been watching the scene in the other drawing: a longhaired woman, naked, with eyes like black holes is crucified on an exploding, multi-horned vortex. There is a darkness glimpsed in these efforts that the younger artists in the exhibition do not approach, nothing else in the show made my skin ripple though there was much that intrigued and perplexed.
Jimmie Durham’s sculpture, Untitled (2011), combines a bone fragment, a bullet casing, the bottom of a drinking glass, and what looks like a cigar box, to form a projector. On the side he’s copied a verse from the Bible (Luke 24:38) wherein Jesus suggests those who think he’s a ghost to touch his body to know that it’s substantial, that he’s no cosmic specter. Seeing and believing are disjointed, and it’s the sense of touch that is to be the glue.
Jimmie Durham, Untitled, 1993, Painted wood box, bone, glass. Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.
This notion of tactility is a central element in Amy Granat’s photograms and Sophie Stone’s trio of plaster and cardboard constructs. Granat’s dark compositions are full of foggy shadow hands and silhouettes of fauna samples. Like Sam Fall’s trio of sun-bleached cotton sheets emblazoned with the snakey image of an uncoiling garden hose, Granat’s photograms are a bit banged up. This too goes for Stone’s sculptures; they look brusquely handled, though placed on a high shelf these odd objects also seem to symbolize something just out of one’s reach, visible but too removed to be scrutinized.
Perhaps the most obvious example of someone caring deeply for spaces most of the rest of us neglect is Yuji Agematsu’s installation of gutter refuse. Filthy wads of paper, soiled cigarette butts, rings of plastic stained brown—all of it is pinned to a bronze painted wall as delicately as if each specimen was a precious butterfly. The work that actually looks like it could have been part of a butterfly wing—so iridescent is its surface—is Gyan Panchal’s Baubajai (2012). Here a curling strip of pearly insulation adorned with a single square of silver leaf hangs with little visible weight from the wall. How it came to be what it is, I haven’t any sense, but I like it.
(Image at top: Cameron Parsons, Untitled (Lady of the Lake), 1962, Ink and gouache on paper. Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.)