Sites of Knowledge

Installation view
Sites of Knowledge, June 8-July 28, 2017
Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery
Photo by Christine Pan 

Sites of Knowledge is a group exhibition with an intellectual agenda and is intelligently put together. On view until July 28, at Jane Lombard Gallery, the group show is curated by Re-Sited, a two-person collaborative (its members are Melissa Bianca Amore and William Stover.)  Their exhibition examines the function of symbol and language, in turn, it addresses critical ideas about history, authorship and the visual structures of knowledge.  


Installation view
Sites of Knowledge, June 8-July 28, 2017
Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery
Photo by Christine Pan 


As you walk in, Richard Artschwager's Exclamation Point welcomes you.  Made in wood, this is one of the many different versions in a body of work that focuses on punctuations. The artist once said that art is pre-literate and his exclamation operates in the space between words. Standing nearby is the work by a French- Canadian artist, Guy Laramée, called The Grand Library. His work features eighty books from Encyclopedia Britannica. From the sides it looks like stacks of books with their spines neatly intact, but all the books have their pages carved and cut away. For the last twenty-five years, Laramée has been working with the idea of what he calls the erosion of culture. As the artist says in his statement: "I want to examine thinking, not only 'what' we think, but 'that' we think. ... I carve landscapes out of books. ... Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply is." 

Installation view
Sites of Knowledge, June 8-July 28, 2017
Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery
Photo by Christine Pan
 

On the back wall is a drawing by Sophie Tottie, a Swedish born artist. Her work investigates what it means to put down a sign and its relationship with the beholder's act of perception. Through meticulous and repetitive movements, Tottie illustrates the importance of the line and the spaces between the lines.  Jen Mazza, whose works are the first two paintings shown in the above image, and three of her book paintings are shown in the image below.  Mazza and her paintings were the main reason I was there.  Two years ago, I visited her studio and she showed me some of her recent paintings. At first, I was drawn to her paintings because they are so detailed and formal. On that day, when she told me more about her paintings, and about her obsessiveness in executing them, I started to like the paintings even more. These book paintings are the best works I have seen so far.  


Installation view of paintings by Jen Mazza
Sites of Knowledge, June 8-July 28, 2017
Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery
Photo by Christine Pan 

In her artist statement, Mazza mentions that she has always envied the precision, clarity, success of communication, etc., about the written language, until she discovered the beauty of misunderstanding. When she started the book paintings, she was interested in the idea of translation and the process of translation. From what I know of her work, she considers the act of painting with equal affinity to its finished result. While reading Proust, Mazza gradually discovers that as the story takes precedence over the physical book, the two begin to morph into a single entity. As the written words become signifiers for the objects, they become symbols and carriers of meaning. In this instance, the canvas supports the book, the book supports the text, the text brings the whole story alive. These paintings read like semiotic games.

Installation view
Sites of Knowledge, June 8-July 28, 2017
Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery
Photo by Christine Pan

At the end of the gallery, there are two works, one by Kristin Mclver and the other one by Michael Rakowitz.  Mclver's work looks at social media and the ways in which technology has reshaped the mode of exchange and the employment of language.  Using light and projection, she studies the medium of social media as a mean for a form of ideology serving one's self-representation.  This work Indebted to you charts the US national debt figure, recorded at the same time of a day over a period of forty days.  As the numbers begin to inundate, the figures become larger and larger to the point of being incomprehensible. Rakowitz, on the other hand resorts to the ancient method of carving books out of stones.  The Iraqi-Amercan artist uses stones quarried from the ruins of a sixth century sandstone Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. With the assistance of stone carvers from Afghanistan and Italy, he remade books from the Sate Library of Hesse-Kassel that were destroyed by the British Royal Air Force in WWII. This piece represent the idea that though the physical can be destroyed but the knowledge and beliefs are indestructible.

Sites of Knowledge is a group show incomparable to any other that I have seen so far.  It presents American artists along with international artists, and all in all there are nine of them. Their works iterate the meaning of text and symbol. It is one of those shows that the curatorial mission and the works it features remain consistent throughout.  It presents the issue of language and symbol from many angles and in a non-didactic way.  

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