A Brooklyn Show Brings Together 8 Young Artists Grappling with Romance in the Digital Age

  • Installation view of “It Started with a Rose” courtesy of 315 Gallery.

Today, in the age of Facebook, Seamless, Netflix, Tinder, and countless other apps that allow us to seize our desires on demand, romance has taken a hit. Age-old ventures like finding a mate, going out to dinner, or seeing a movie have been met with digital solutions that provide endless access and interconnectedness, but at the same time engender insular, lonely lifestyles. This bizarre collision of romance and technology has been on Cecilia Salama’s mind for some time. And for the past year, the young Brooklyn-based sculptor has been looking to fellow artists who can relate to this struggle. Spurred by the self-inflicted question, “Is there a relationship between how romance has changed and how we are portraying it?” Salama sought to curate a show of likeminded peers, and this fall it’s come to fruition.

“I think technology has influenced us in two different ways,” Salama tells me as we walk through “it started with a rose,” the group show she curated at 315 Gallery in Downtown Brooklyn. “First, there’s the insular aspect of not having to leave your house to be a productive member of society, and second, there’s the way it’s showing us so many more options for people we can date, which I think makes it very hard to commit fully to one person.” Within this context, she’s gathered 10 works by eight fellow young artists, which address various facets of romance in the present. The artists included are working with an array of processes and materials—highly tactile mediums like textiles and ceramics—that are removed from their art-historical forebears. Salama points to Rodin’s The Kiss as an example, in which a gesture of passion was carved into cold, hard stone. “It’s not like anyone goes to school to learn how to chisel marble or learn these really fine crafts today,” she offers. “We kind of all developed our own processes, and it’s made the concept of romance more relatable in the work.”

  • Left: Sophia Narrett, VR Experience Option 1-Date Night, 2016. Right: Anna Sagström, (You gave me a ring of glass) And it broke and love ended, 2016. Images courtesy of 315 Gallery.

Salama proposes that romance today relies more heavily on fleeting moments, rather than grand gestures, and this sentiment permeates various artists’ works on view—most of which were created for the occasion. In a sculpture by Elizabeth Jaeger, for example, a lone ceramic flower in a pitcher sits precariously on a slender pedestal with a hole in its center; Anna Sagström’s jagged acrylic glass work, titled (You gave me a ring of glass) And it broke and love ended (2016), conveys a fragile gesture of commitment. At the far end of the gallery space, an installation by Greg Ito conjures a sense of loneliness—a surrealistic table for two is set for dinner, with dishes and flatware, and a pair of candles that intertwine, yet it’s devoid of any signs of the couple meant to dine there.

Perhaps most in line with Salama’s thinking, though, is a textile work by Sophia Narrett, whose work enmeshes reality and fantasy, but ultimately speaks about love. Her works, embroidered with incredible detail through a painstaking process, rely heavily on the internet. “I sort of use the internet as a language for visualizing my stories, so it’s this vehicle for fantasy, but also research,” Narrett offers.“In some ways it allows connections that wouldn’t have been possible, but at the same time it can definitely create an isolating experience.” In contrast, her manual process is closely aligned with real human touch. “I was a painter before, and six years ago, I was experimenting with other things aside from painting,” she says. “Without realizing it I was looking for more of a connection with the material. I never was really excited about painting, it was more the images that were exciting, not the actual process.”

  • Installation view of “It Started with a Rose” courtesy of 315 Gallery.

In Narrett’s work, two nude women wearing VR goggles wander through a lush, verdant fantasy populated by intertwined couples; all crowned by three large red roses. “I was thinking the whole scene is something that the women wearing VR glasses are experiencing,” adds Narrett, noting that the couples are from screencaps of “The Bachelor” episodes. “It’s this little magic date-night party where all these people are on double dates, except for one girl who is having a bad night and crying and peeing alone in the bushes.”

Jack Barrett, 315 Gallery director, suggests that Narrett’s work may best encapsulate the spirit of the show. “It’s drawn from reality TV, where there’s this weird fabricated space, and then you’re sitting at home watching it, thinking about these characters and contexts, but you’re completely removed them,” he offers, adding that the VR goggles add another layer of fabricated spaces. Narrett’s tiny nude women wearing VR goggles are an apt visual to capture the crux of the show—the state of feeling vulnerable and alone, wandering aimlessly through a simulated landscape of love and lust.

—Casey Lesser

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