Material Witness

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Untitled Assemblage, 1978 Wood, Fabric, Monotypes On Paper, Cord, Graphic & Ink In A Dovetailed Box With Hinged Lid 12 X 17 X 2 Inches © Courtesy of Pavel Zoubok Gallery
Material Witness

531 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10011
November 17th, 2011 - December 17th, 2011
Opening: November 17th, 2011 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Tue-Sat 10-6
mixed-media, sculpture


PAVEL ZOUBOK GALLERY invites you to MATERIAL WITNESS, featuring three artists whose mixed-media constructions reflect a shared interest in memory and the metaphorical power of objects: HANNELORE BARON (1926-1987), DONNA SHARRETT and VANESSA GERMAN.  Please join us for the opening reception on Thursday, November 17, 2011 from 6-8pm or during the run of the exhibition, which continues through December 17.

Each of the artists in MATERIAL WITNESS use disparate objects, both found and given, as the building blocks of their works and transform them into carriers of personal and collective consciousness. HANNELORE BARON’s intimate fabric and wood constructions reflect the anguish of a life spent reconciling childhood experiences of “war” with a new life as a self-taught artist in America. At twelve years old Baron witnessed the invasion of her house during the Nazi-led Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) and the arrest of her parents. DONNA SHARRETT combines symbolically rich materials such as doll clothes, needlework, wedding rings, hair, dirt, guitar string ends and handmade rose beads into meticulous crafted mandalas. Combining the material symbolism of Victorian memento mori and the mathematical complexity of Gothic rose windows, Sharrett’s works invite us to contemplate the cyclical nature of life and human experience. VANESSA GERMAN’s intricately overwrought figures of young black girls simultaneously evoke the ritual power of African fetish figures and the often painful historical representations of race. Through her mixed-media sculptures, activism and performance work, German raises fundamental questions about gender, class and culture.

These three artists, representing distinctly different generations and backgrounds, are the keepers of both their own stories and the stories of countless others. What they share is a profound interest in the preservation of memory through the materiality of objects and in the process of making work. In their own words…


Everything I’ve done is a statement on the, as they say, human condition…The way other people march to Washington, or set themselves on fire, or write protest letters, or go to assassinate someone. Well, I’ve had all the same feelings that these people have had about various things, and my way out, because of my inability to do anything else for various reasons, has been to make the protest through my artwork…

The materials I use in the box constructions and cloth collages are gathered with great care. The reason I use old cloth and boxes is that the new materials lack the sentiment of the old, and seems too dry in an emotional sense.


I have become a custodian of memories: my works, repositories for keepsakes. Guitar-strings are used as a dedication to my brother Scot Sharrett, as are the song titles chosen to name the works.

Handmade doll clothes, jewelry, buttons, worn bedspreads, clothing, tablecloths and napkins – were given to me by those who wished to have their personal treasures included. Yard sales & consignment shops yielded evocative objects now out of fashion or in disrepair.  These gifts & discoveries join the repertoire of symbolically significant materials which have continued to inform my work.


i surrender myself to the objects that call up to me. there are stories in the air and in the objects & materials i am building with, there is something about possession- in going into the place where the building can be done.  i love to build. i love to troll my neighborhood for secret on-the-ground, or buried just-under-the-ground treasures that have to be, a word, in the sentence, of the stories that come insisting  through my hands, through my blood. 

i am working in a spirit of reclamation. i suppose i am looking for the most original thing within me. i am working in the understanding that there is a force that is time, and is timeless, that has a thing to do, that is owning up to history & now & has a thing to say that is not necessarily born of the needles of my own imagination. there is love here. (here, as in, in my work) there is healing here, there is road to recovery here, there is transformation here, there is history here, there is appropriation to truth here, there is beauty & a pointed finger here, there is recognition of genuine brutality here, there is recognition of complicity & complexity here, there is a reclamation & transformation & transcendence here.