Great show at Irvine Contemporary: "On/Off the Grid"
At first glance, it might seem that the conceptual terms (“grids, networks, architecture, and abstract systems”) that are used to classify the artwork in the Irvine Gallery’s current show, “On/Off Grid” are dangerously broad. But the group show does step up and provide some interesting representations of this range of ideas; many of the pieces demonstrate interesting ways that grids and networks can be both physical and subjective in art. Play with intersections, layers, and dimensionality allowed each artist to contribute a different definition of a “grid”, using different medias and conceptual concerns.
Perhaps the most conceptual interpretation of the "grid" theme was the work of Molly Springfield, which highlighted intersections of history and reproduction, and print and digital books. Her drawings of historically significant texts represent labor and attention, in contrast to the scans or PDFs that now embody archival texts. Her representations of modern devices like the Kindle catalyze this contrast. Within her work, commentaries about our relationship to digital systems that historicize begin to emerge. On the other end of the spectrum, Adam Fowler’s complex line drawings achieved a physical representation of a three-dimensional grid but layering cutouts of lines drawn in graphite. The level of detail involved in each piece enhanced the work's theme of dimensionality and complexity.
Across the space, Linn Meyer’s drawings avoided intersection to explore flow and topography using lines that do not cross. Whether or not this was meant to stand out as a curatorial antithesis to the idea of the “network” or “grid” was unclear, but the work itself represented the individual’s ability to generate large-scale maps as interpretive systems, and explore hand-drawn representations of “space” or “land” that are clearly influenced by data and mapping technology.
Tadashi Moriyama and Courtney Jordan dealt with architectural structures and how they can represent the “grid”. Their works succeeded within the show’s theme by conflating systems, the urban environment, and cities as entities that bring issues of agency and perspective to the fore. Their works seem to grapple with what kind of syntaxes are created when we try to articulate or represent our role within network and systems – whether those network are made up of physical structures or information. In different ways, their works remind us that many “networks” are at play in any given space. Within that complex space, the artist is at liberty to both aestheticize and critique, create and participate.
Hasan Elahi’s video compilation is the output of his life-tracking project, “Tracking Transience”. The project addresses surveillance and paranoia and inverts these notions in order to ignite dialogues on surveillance-based culture. Elahi uses surveillance technologies, but he also responds to them, and plays with our assumptions about their political effectiveness. The project is perhaps better-represented by the artist’s website, http://trackingtransience.net/, but the video loop was an interesting archival collage of an artist’s extreme self-documentation.
It’s worth visiting the gallery to absorb the whole range of works that contribute to the theme of the show. Whether the artists are on or off the proverbial grid remains ambiguous, but their visualizations of networks and systems provide aesthetic and logical insights in themselves.
"On/Off the Grid," February 13 to March 20 at Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th Street, NW. Featuring the following artists: Hasan Elahi, Adam Fowler, Teo González, Courtney Jordan, Amy Lin, Linn Meyers, Tadashi Moriyama, Molly Springfield, Yuriko Yamaguchi.
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