Get on the Block exhibition at Camel Art Space

Get on the Block
Camel Art Space
Brooklyn, NY
May 13 – June 12, 2011
Reception: Fri, May 13, 6-9pm

A detail of one portion of the sculptural installation The Growing Metaphysical Void (Displaced from My Bedroom Ceiling)

Works by: Julianne Ahn • Alex Paik • Matt Phillips • Travis LeRoy Southworth • Liz Zanis

Curated by: Lauren van Haaften-Schick

The works in Get on the Block explore social and self-conscious anxieties and motivations surrounding art production and exhibition. Through sincere humor, humility and coy absurdity, these artists confront what critic Jan Verwoert has termed “the pressure to perform,” the expectation and demand that artists and cultural producers present only absolute, correct assertions with the “genius-like” promise of positive results. In contrast, these works offer open-ended proposals or temporary conclusions, rendering suspect the desire and criteria for defining success or failure.

Suspicious of their assumed positions as key-holders to a romantic, isolated world of the studio, the artists in the exhibition both embrace and push against the problematic of this rarified space. Jubilance and serendipity direct Alex Paik‘s skewed, hyper-saturated geometric cut paper drawings and reliefs, nuanced by a pointed fixation on rudimentary elements. A similar upheaval of and reverence for formalism is conveyed in Matt Phillips‘ paintings, as picture-making rules are shattered and refracted, alluding at once to physics, psychedelia and high modernism.

Autobiographic works consider the conditions for their creation and the artist’s interior life as a similar workspace, exposing the labor of production as an intrinsic result of their everyday experience. Liz Zanis‘ miniature facsimiles of commonplace objects such as wrapped floral bouquets, train tickets and phone books reflect upon and speak to anxieties surrounding personal and public exchange and perception. Julianne Ahn‘s labor and time intensive works reference the intimate mania of art making and domestic life, as dirty laundry and the grid appear as equals in a hierarchy of categorical terms, the physical minutia of one realm is allowed to populate the other. Emulating the work of work, Travis LeRoy Southworth‘s spit-wad accumulations embody a constant churning of thoughts and desire for action, ruminating at once on where to begin and what could determine an end.

If the idea of the studio distinguishes a place for art-work, or production with the goal of display, then viewing one’s labor as play becomes a radical gesture. Subverting the anticipation of the artist as authority and reconsidering the definitions of emotional, intellectual and physical boundaries in the context of object-making, these works fuse these spaces to propose a more unified and fluid concept of production.

update: review on WNYC’s Arts Datebook