As an observer of patterns, artist Rachel Perry Welty tends to work in repetition. Her practice, which includes sculpture, photography, painting, and drawing, has largely been directed by the trends she observes in contemporary culture—whether in the ubiquity of lifestyle branding or the monotony of Facebook. In the past, she has built works out of materials culled together from the detritus of daily life For her current solo show at Yancey Richardson, however, Welty’s taps into the history of abstraction to address repetition. Instead of bringing attention to the all the stuff that surrounds us, she has turned to formalist drawings to reveal the beauty and imperfection of human touch.
The premise of Welty’s new series, “Chiral Lines,” is as straightforward as it comes. After scouring the house for all of the pens, pencils, crayons, and markers available, the artist attempted to draw a straight line with each—first with her left hand, then with her right. “As I was making these I was also thinking about the notion of the copy, the reproduction of an image,” says Welty of these abstractions.
The side-by-side drawings, arranged as diptychs, suggest mirror images, each with their own imperfections. Welty’s dense accumulations of imperfect markings feel sophisticated in their simplicity, yet convey the intensity of the artist’s painstaking task. Stacked one on top of the other, her lines evoke the hypnotizing rhythm of organic patterns—such as waves on the beach or the concentric rings of a tree stump. When looking closely at the marks, each of Welty’s squiggly lines seems to bleed into the next. The effect is at once dizzying and mesmerizing.
In the gallery’s project space, Welty applies a more exacting touch—slicing fruit stickers into thin slivers in order to create compositions that feel reminiscent of delicate kite tails. Hung together, these collages, although equally meticulous, provide a whimsical antidote to the strict rubric of her line drawings. It’s in the laborious accumulation of form that parallels to her earlier work emerge.
Despite being rendered in a rainbow palette, the two series feel surprisingly understated—a quality that is rare to find in Welty’s work. Extreme in the quietest of ways, “Chiral Lines” elevates the commonplace in a way that feels reverential rather than gimmicky.
“Rachel Perry Welty: Chiral Lines” is on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, Sep. 20 – Oct. 17, 2015.
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