A construction can be both a solid, unshakable body that exists in space, or a complete fabrication of the mind. In this dual way, at its core, art-making is construction. And its employment can take many forms as is demonstrated in the work of Kristine Moran, Josephine Halvorson, Claudia Weber, and Frohawk Two Feathers. Their diverse artistic practices represent and reveal different modes of construction and deconstruction of space, meaning, identity, narrative, and iconography. Through altering perspectives in space; through close examination of and attention to the tiny details; through recontextualizing materials or replacing objects with forms that mimic them; and through the invention of character and narrative, the work of these artists embody this duality, conflating real and imagined, representational and abstract, placed and replaced, form and formless.
Kristine Morans recent paintings, a series called Protean Slip, contain whispers of the human, but are truly abstract constructions. Referring to the shape-shifting Greek god Proteus, the works speak to the shifting and instability of identity through the shifting (and instability) of perspective in space and the morphing of forms. In some paintings, like Somnambule and Speechless midnight fear, piles of abstract shapes appear depicted in real space, like distortions, bursts, or growths. Whereas in paintings like Slow-wave 2 and Dispersion 4, the eye is commanded to wander in starts and stops, interrupted and turned around by repeating spears and smears of paint. Either way they become their own reality apart from the one we occupy while looking.
Zooming in on objects and scenes from life, Josephine Halvorson creates a new version of the world, inhabited only by details and details of details. Her choice of some subjects that are unfamiliar and her choice of perspective on others, which defamiliarizes them, compel a new relationship between the viewer and the thing. Though the treatment is representational, in a painting like Wire Clippings, Halvorson has chosen a scene that in itself is abstract and in paintings like Pink Stripe and Organ, the crop is so tight that the shapes, lines, and colors create abstraction. Spending time with the paintings allows them to unfold and oscillate to reveal that they are not necessarily what they initially seemed not abstract but representational, or not representational but abstract.
Heavily influenced by different types of architecture as well as the character of objects and the power of composition, in her installations and photographs Claudia Weber creates new spaces, and new experiences of space. In her own words, she "dissolve[s] the accumulated associations by releasing materials from their suggested homogeneity of form, function and context, thereby provoking unintended readings and interjecting my own subjective reinterpretations." It is the idea that the objects or elements as they exist are bound, but once placed in the artwork freed from worldly meaning that resonates loudly. This happens implicitly in the work Higher Ground, a composition including photographs, plexiglass, frames, and framing devices. More explicitly, in the work The Inquisitive Stage, Weber has responded to an arrangement of a group of objects and artworks from the collection of Andre Breton, replacing them with ones that are mundane and quotidian. The objects then are imbued with meaning and devoid of meaning simultaneously. Hers is a multi-layered practice that allows for multiple entries at several points.
Frohawk Two Feathers engages familiar formal and narrative techniques to invent an unfamiliar universe that comments on our own. In works that often masquerade as antique objects and historical documents, Frohawk Two Feathers tells imagined narratives using fictional characters and a detailed iconography. However, by way of these elaborate fabrications, Two Feathers addresses very real issues of race, class, and gender, war, power struggles, and colonialism. Primarily using portraiture of "Captains," "Duchesses," "Kings," and "Assassins," and attaching to them lengthy descriptive titles, like The Guyana Girls (I Tell All of You Like I Tell All of Them). Beertje and Geertje, fraternal twin sisters and assassins Marrechal Paul Dubois Curacao 1790 sentenced to death in absentia in Frengland rescued by Admiral Deucalion, an elusive, but comprehensive story is told. Visually, themes and devices are repeated, such as the stark frame surrounding intricate figures and markings on the bodies and faces of the characters. Two Feathers exquisitely employs legible visual cues to tell his fictional and fantastical tale.
Melissa Levin is the Director of Artist Residencies at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Previously, she worked at Artforum International Magazine, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. She has participated in panels at RISD, Dumbo Arts Center, Lower East Side Print Shop, Center for Book Arts, and Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts; and lectured at Parsons, The New School for Design, NYU, and The Cleveland Institute of Art. Melissa has also curated exhibitions at MoMA PS1, Cuchifritos Gallery, ISE Cultural Foundation, Andrea Rosen Gallery, LMCC, and Taylor De Cordoba Gallery. An exhibition at Nurture Art is forthcoming in Fall 2011. Melissa received her BA with honors in Visual Art and Art History from Barnard College.