This past Sunday, just two hours away from their Chelsea gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery opened A Change of Place: Four Solo Exhibitions to celebrate the second anniversary of The School in Kinderhook, New York, David Hammon’s African-American Flag hanging high on their front lawn. The School, is a 30,000 ft square space that serves as home to the gallery’s private collection, as well as an exhibition space, both indoor and outdoor.
The artists featured in this particular exhibition, Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman, Richard Mosse, and Garnett Puett, deal with and challenge concepts space, destruction, memory, and progress amongst various others. Although each body of work coexists in one space, the exquisite presentation does not allow for any friction.
The first artwork to greet viewers is Garnett Puett’s sculptures. These beautifully strange, organic sculptures encased in glass are a product of what Puett calls “a collaboration with 30,000 bees,” in which they embellish the metal armature made and coated in beeswax by the artist with honeycombs. There is a paradoxical relationship formed by the harmony and the dissonance between the man-made armatures and the natural contribution of the bees. For example, in Shock Box, (1987) the presence of the steel object is much more dominant as it juts out of the honeycombs and the wax comparatively to Soul Spur, (1996-2016). The contrast is intentionally created by the artist, and the push and pull between the work of the artist and the bees are directly correlated to the time spent collaborating on an object. As one inspects the minute details that could only be created by bees, the meditative, cyclical process between the artist and the bees is almost palpable. At the same time, the absence of the bees as well as the trace of the artist’s hand exudes a mystical atmosphere.
Meditation has a strong presence in both Richard Mosse’s photographs and Pierre Dorion’s chillingly serene paintings. Mosse’s visually seizing photographs many of which are shot in a traditional landscape format, serve as historical reminders, as well as a documentation of his personal narrative in his adventure to capture what he describes as “a testimonial,” and “otherworldy traces of humanitarian tragedy.” The body of work titled Infra, (2010-ongoing) which he shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo with color infrared film, is indeed otherworldly. Mosse calls some of these scenes captured “profoundly banal,” which is only proved true by some of the gargantuan photographs hanging in what used to be the gymnasium in the now exhibition space. The monumental photograph Everything Merges with the Night, (2015) visually documents the mountains and the general landscape of Congo, also brings to light the context of the conflict going on through the vivid hues of magenta, and hot pink in the trees and soldiers uniforms rendered by the infrared film.
Pierre Dorion explored the space and beyond it within The School, where his work along with Kahraman, Mosse, and Puett would be presented. Dorion took pictures of the unfinished classrooms on the second floor of The School contemplating his search for the connection between what would ultimately be his finished paintings, and the space. In this self-described “poetic institutional critique,” the physical object in which the altered space would appear is very important for the artist. As he described his process, he emphasized the importance of printing out the photographs, even if just snapshots. The final goal is not only to have the space and his paintings exist as a whole, but at the same time, create paintings that somehow expand the space. This is done through his pristine handling of paint on linen, as well as the emphasis of entryways such as doors and windows in his paintings. The interaction between the unfinished classrooms and his paintings exude a strange harmony by invading the structure both metaphysically and mechanically.
If Mosse’s photographs emphasize a conflict unable to be captured in his prints, and Dorion is exploring an unseen space beyond the physical through his paintings, then Hayv Kahraman is pondering something lost in her personal life, and is constantly reminded of the sounds of sirens that forever polluted those memories as an Iraqi émigré to Europe and later to the US. She channels these experiences into heart-wrenching pieces. Most notably in Icosahedral Body, (2013) where she took cross-sections of her body every two inches, and cut out those shapes onto each of the twenty faces of an Icosahedron and Decagram No. 2, where she uses the same technique, and superimposed the cutouts with a painting of two women, one which is peeking through the hole in the center. Stylistically, her paintings are reminiscent of Japanese or Arabic calligraphy, but the strongest gesture lies in her own presence in these paintings- especially when paired with the acoustic foam penetrating through some of said portraits, such as in Shield 2 (2016). The fact that the material of acoustic foam is used to soundproof creates an irony between the puncturing gesture and the material, and is given deeper meaning when the context of Kahraman’s experience of trauma caused by warning sirens is taken into account.
Through exploration of a personal narrative, documentation of a world unknown, the meditation of a space, and collaboration with nature, Kahraman, Mosse, Dorian, and Puett function harmoniously even though aesthetically diverse. The most magical part, perhaps, was how these works transformed The School through these silent, visual dialogues only giving deeper meaning to the individual works themselves.
A Change of Place: Four Solo Exhibitions features works by Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman, Richard Mosse, and Garnett Puett. The School | Jack Shainman Gallery is located at 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, New York and is open on Saturdays, and by appointment, from 11am-5pm.