A Review of Personal Space and Vague Perimeters at PLUG Projects
July 17-August 22, 2015
A spider sets up in the cracks of a satin porch. I lean, nose first, into the rosy light of sunset settled in the crevasse of a mounted object. I feel the crowd disappear, their conversations blur and muddle, and I listen to the spider move one leg at a time up the web, scraping the silk along the way. This is Amy Garofano’s “Satin Porch” on the wall at PLUG Projects on a stiflingly hot July evening. I’m escaping the oppression of a non-air-conditioned vehicle and tiresome conversation for this show, then a cold beer. The spider has added an appropriate element to Personal Space in the front room of PLUG Projects: the lived-in familiarity of a shared space. For me, that translates into old roommates in old houses and the diverse components of each: mixed textured objects and eras around the shared rooms, a personal yet chaotic vibe in a private room, an object before it was withered by a cat scraping her claws. Amy Garofano taps into this collective memory with her wrapped shapes and materials. Some appear more machined than others, like the pre-laid objects in mid-century modern homes that lack character only to the outside viewer, but are heavy with associations to those in the living space. Through her color choices, vague familiarity of shapes and patterns, and their inviting presence on the wall, Garofano’s study of the shifting contexts between perception and objects is more effective in person than it sounds on paper. What is gained from her work is a sense that certain moments of personal clarity occur around the most daily objects and locations that surround us. The collective memory is accessible with careful use of cultural banalities—like suede and empty brick walls. I found her work as she found inspiration: during a lull in the day where I was sensitive to the details of a space, if only as a brief escape from heat, conversation, and activity. Quite satisfying, even if I’m wrong, to think a complete circle had been reached. (The spider, I hope, was left unbothered.)
Occupying the same room, Cybele Lyles’s colorful prints are windows to changing landscapes that first appear to be still. A number of these prints echo their own form, as if the frame holds the image and the image holds more frames. This empty space appears behind thin layers of ink that add atmosphere to the empty frames and rooms. Moments of contemplation or reflection can often appear stagnant or wasted to an outsider, and this feeling is enhanced by mirroring landscapes that appear still but are in constant movement, like sand or a river. I was pleased by both Lyle’s bold use of color and restrained use of line and form—a rare combination among a certain breed of abstract minimalists. New worlds are made inside our world with calculated choices of color and shape, stemming from Lyle’s clear understanding of interior space and the natural environment. It is a high-quality blend of serene environments and the changing complexities of inner life, with each component reflecting the other. My only grievance is that most of this work is The Dreaded Untitled—my biggest pet peeve in the contemporary art world. Abstraction like Lyle’s has the unique power to affect without dramatizing a medium or subjective scenario, and therefore retains its potential to drive the audience into a near-subliminal state with the punctuation of a single word. Her deft skill in envisioning alternate environments and rooms that the audience can access is not rewarded with the final detail which would propel us into a new reality. An artist who can convince us of her own world with few materials and a short statement owes it to her creative career to provide a title of equal measure. This truly is a missed opportunity.
A room away, beyond a dark corner at the end of the front gallery, Annie Woodfill sets up her spatial interpretation of the room and the relationship her practice has within it. Vague Perimeters is a variety of things because it is A Space In Progress. While Woodfill’s ideas are well-formed and articulated in the statement, the construction of the space felt like a temporary incarnation of the massive themes she is working with. Everything in the space is in the process of opening or shutting, being measured and cut, coated or stripped. Stages of living “in between” moments are sources of inspiration, like strewn mail on a desk or an object intended for later use resting angled against a wall. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable, and therefore an intimacy is developed as you traverse the room. I think of the first interactions with a space—the very, very first ones—as being the most intimate and loving to the architecture itself. No one is more in sync with a space as the one who erects the walls, applies straight lines where there once was organic chaos. Even in the stages before a new piece is added to a space—such as the materials found laying against the wall, found ephemera waiting for an accessed potential—the objects in this installation are being thought about very carefully, very concisely. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere along Woodfill’s career, she began to build her own rooms, just to portray these ideas that form her obviously highly interconnected relationship to object and space. The invitation for an audience to enter this developing area can be difficult. Either the audience will pass through as they tend to do in spaces that appear under construction, or they will find themselves trapped in the scary grey area of being asked to consider the transitional environment in question, and not really understanding what is being asked of them. It’s a hard theme to work with—having a practice that is so enmeshed in these kinds of spaces and choosing elements of it to bring to a gallery—but Woodfill is on the right track with her deliberate and subtle assembly. Most notably, for me, the indication came upon looking up at the ceiling, where a single line of painter’s tape had been extended right up the corner of the wall and leapt across a material void to be reconnected with some existing structural part of the building. It is a buried, yet loaded choice that reflects the depth of her conceptual faculties and adherence to the artist statement. If choices like this evolve to their full potential—which I see as becoming a bit more loose and humorous—Woodfill can be sure the audience will feel welcomed and engaged in a space where vague is beautiful.