Erin Gleason's "The Tug": A Sensual Play with Measure
Review by Athena Axiomakaros
“The Tug”, Installation View, FiveMyles Gallery
At the intersection between lived experience and calculation, Erin Gleason’s solo exhibition “The Tug” visually plays with how we measure life. At the intersection between art and philosophy, installation and exhibition, “The Tug” sensually addresses how our sense of truth is extracted through lived experiences and conceptual language such as the feminine, the beautiful, and the sublime. The works in this show at FiveMyles Gallery reveal a deep sensitivity, beautifully challenging our belief that truth can be found in empirical evidence across such fields of knowledge as architecture, cartography, history, technology, and language, while confronting the security that is felt from such beliefs. At the interchange that occurs between art and philosophy, the art of Erin Gleason takes cues from such philosophers at Henri Bergson, Hypatia, Immanuel Kant, Joseph Kosuth, Milan Kundera, and Virginia Woolf to construct an evocative space that evolves throughout the exhibition and is reminiscent of the unfixed, sensual nature of these living spheres.
Detail of “Immortality Drawing No.1”, Ink on Paper, 24” x 32”
Left: “Orkney Series: Monday”, Right: “Orkney Series: Sunday”, Archival Pigment Prints on BFK Rives Paper, L.E. 1/5, 33” x 43” each
Gleason’s work in “The Tug” ranges from archival pigment prints based on intricate drawings created in Scotland while walking the shorelines, a series of abstract macro-photographs entitled Homemade Landscapes, a drawing implementing QR code technology to reveal a second 'hidden' artwork, and the script-based drawing “Immortality”. Her response to the gallery’s architecture, a former 1920’s car garage, reinforces “the tug” that permeates every aspect of the show. In a cheeky reference to white cube gallery spaces, Gleason wrapped the dark gray gallery walls in white-on-white patterned fabric. The sensitive installation both negates the gallery’s industrial architecture, and in the same moment, enforces it. The tug even continues onto the street: Using the gallery’s lace-like iron gate as a seductive veil, Gleason entices the viewer to enter the space while the using the architecture to restrict direct entrance from the street. At night, the space of the gallery glows with ephemeral light transforming the obstructing gate into the appearance of another patterned fabric, giving the appearance of a permeable surface.
“The Tug”, Exterior Installation View at Night, FiveMyles Gallery
“The Stripping of Hypatia, No.1”, Ink on Paper + Digitally Hidden Artwork, 14” x 22”
The sculpture The Ideal Republic is the most arresting work of the show. The column constructed from eight used wedding dresses, including the artist's own, is a reference to what Gleason describes as the “concealed pillars of society – the feminine, the contract, and the Platonic ideal.” Standing outside of the gallery space, the column sways hauntingly in the ephemeral space, and, in addition to a dying rose in the sculpture One and Three Beauties (a playful take on Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs), is the only sense of motion in the otherwise frozen space. Columns, typically anchored in to the ground by a pedestal and mounted with a capital, normally give a sense on stability and weight, but The Ideal Republic has the opposite effect. Devoid of the typical architectural attributes of a column, it floats in space with no visible reference to structural elements required of objects of the same name or obvious means of support.
“The Ideal Republic”, Worn Wedding Dresses + Wire, 11ft x 1.5ft x 1.5ft
Detail from “One and Three Beauties”, Red Rose, Pedestal, Chair, Artwork
Other noteworthy works are the two prints from her “Homemade Landscape” macro-photography series. Homemade Landscape No. 82: Lofoten Islands (Light Bulb) and Homemade Landscape No. 77: Jan Mayen (Curtain) lure the viewer in closer in order to question our relationship to place, measurement and the sublime. Influenced by the philosopher Emmanuel Kant and his description of “the pleasurable feeling that arises when one overcomes the fear of encountering an object in nature whose magnitude is beyond what we can calculate,” these landscapes focus on trivialized domestic objects reimagined through photography to confront the viewer with the feeling of the sublime as it occurs in the intimacy of everyday life. What started as an Instagram project, each artwork in the series is geo-tagged as a sublime location and presented in the online gallery #HomemadeLandscape, using the social media platform to further question how we experience the sublime under changing scale, intimacy, and technology.
Top: “Homemade Landscape No. 82: Lofoten Islands (Light Bulb)” Bottom: “Homemade Landscape No. 77: Jan Mayen (Curtain)”, Archival Pigment Prints, LE 1/5, 31.5” x 24” each
Accompanying the exhibition, Gleason hosted a public event, Le Mot Juste, a continuation of the artist’s Dark Salon series. During these open discussions, all participants are blindfolded, discovering ways to navigate group conversation without the visual cues we typically rely on, heightening the experience of “the tug” between language, feeling, and thought.
The Tug was exhibited at FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, October 2017.