W, Kate Atkin and Becky Beasley’s exhibition at Museum 52, is a dialogue between two very smart artists thoroughly savoring a collaboration that, like their exhibition’s theme, could double on forever. At first glance, the work appears formal, minimalist, and deeply enthralled to theory. All of those things are true, but happily, most of the work is also beautiful, rife with pensive literary references and whimsical details. Museum 52’s unique two-story space is the perfect playground for Atkin and Beasley, and viewers would be wise to traverse both levels a couple of times, to fully experience the effects of a cleverly-hung show.
In the upper gallery, each piece slowly reveals all of its tricks; no possible inversion has been left unturned. The Left Door (2004/2007), a dreamy, black and white photograph, is replicated twice over from the same (flipped) negative, and the two editions face each other across the long room. In between them lie Plank I and Plank II (both 2008), which, while not the most visually stimulating sculptures, engage the space like two ends of a magnet attracting metal filings. Both The Left Door and Plank I and II explore duplication and reproduction, almost entirely for the sake of demonstrating that no piece is ever really the same.
As proof, Atkin and Beasley pointedly show the artist’s hand, relishing the imperfections that make each work unique. This is most literal in Maw and Maw (Replica) (both 2008), two somewhat sinister drawings that bring to mind the yawning visages of Lee Bontecou’s sculptures. Atkin drew Maw, which is hung upstairs, and then made a drawing of it, Maw (Replica), on display downstairs. The concept is intellectual, but the execution is expressionistic—the surfaces of both drawings are riddled with Atkin’s heavy strokes and painstaking patterns..
More subtle is Beasley’s Green Ream (L.J.N.Y.) (2008), a small box fashioned out of the same American walnut veneer as Plank I and II and stuffed with 500 sheets of Prairie Green paper. It’s a rather blank construction, but the snug fit of the paper into the box provides a weirdly satisfying friction, that, over time, as the paper fades and decays, will evolve. Green Ream also provides the only shock of color in the whole show.
Many artists have long explored the themes that dominate W, and it’s obvious Atkin and Beasley are self-conscious about adding to the conversation in a serious way. Despite some of the old-fashioned concepts (and given the many cynical dalliances of their art world peers with said concepts), Atkin and Beasley’s youthful enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and deft use of materials make W a breath of fresh air.
- Lauren Knighton
*Images Top to Bottom: Becky Beasley, The Left Door/La Derniere Porte, 2004/2007, Gloss fibre based gelatin silver print, archival linen tape, metal eyelets; Becky Beasley, Ream Green (L.J.N.Y.), 2008, 500 sheets green US letter copy paper, black American Walnut veneer on paper, MDF, glue; Kate Atkin, Maw, 2008, Pencil on paper. All images courtesy the artists and Museum 52.
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