Excuse Me, Your Public is Showing

CES Gallery
Jan 18, 2017 2:47AM

A text by Christina Catherine Martinez

Bright Resolutions

Tanya Brodsky, Jonathan Chapline, and Megan Stroech at CES Gallery

December 17, 2016 to January 22, 2017

711 Mateo Street, Los Angeles, CA

For my mother, the surest mark of civilization is deference to lines in space. “If everyone drove like they do out there” she’d say, waving her arm in vague reference to whatever developing world-ness out there implied, “it would be chaos.” Being too young to drive, I simply nodded.


Around the same time, a family friend told me, jokingly, that if you stepped outside the lines of a crosswalk, cars were legally allowed to hit you. Again, I nodded. As a teenager, I received enough trespassing tickets and petty court dates for ducking over, slipping around, and generally disregarding rails, pipes, fences—physical lines of all kinds—to understand the tenuous prescription for controlling flows of energy in public space. That authority, the trust these lines demanded, was contingent on collective belief.


***


Tanya Brodsky’s sculptures, laden with cement clumps and orphaned laundry hinting at some former public life, break this trust. Lifted from their origins and dropped in a gallery, they demarcate only the space they take up. Placed at uncanny heights and angles, they lead everywhere but nowhere in particular.


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Installation view of Bright Resolutions

From 1850-1870, Baron Haussmann rebuilt Paris according to Napoleon III’s vision of an industrialized city. Haussmann pulled taut the complex, layered, fabric of the city into orderly lines. Meandering streets and intimate quartiers razed in favor of wide, straight boulevards and administrative arrondissements. Its denizens were unprecedentedly revealed to one another. The art historian TJ Clark characterized this shift as the city becoming a kind of image of itself. (1)


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How does space collapse into image? The installation of the works in Bright Resolutions seem to create a compromised echo of the modernization Clark describes, casting light on oft-articulated but underexamined metaphors conflating digital space with public space. In declining to articulate any sort of flow for movement, Brodsky’s sculptures are markers as well as intrusions—they do not provide any order for approaching the other works. Jonathan Chapline’s deceptively slick paintings and Megan Stroech’s dollar-shop relief assemblages are themselves ducking over or slipping under Brodsky’s rails. Getting close to Stroech’s 5-9 (2016), for instance, means getting around Brodsky’s Trzepak Variations 3 & 4 (2016). My eyeline is forced to re-enact that adolescent rupture of collective belief—the frisson of trespassing is found even in stillness.

Installation view of Bright Resolutions

That Stroech and Chapline each complicate modes of domestic space in conversation with Brodsky’s sculptures only furthers this collapse. Still Life With 2 Statues (2016) is a picture of a still life breaking its own pact with the genre—representing real objects in space—while maintaining fidelity to the reality of the artist’s composition screen. Looking at 5-9 (2015) in more intimate proximity, it’s difficult to say whether it is relief or collage. It ducks in and out of its own image-ness. Bits of kitchen shelf paper depicting fruits and veggies are cut julienne style and fanned out until they resemble a tiling glitch—as if the laptop crashed in the middle of looking up a recipe. A real object stretched to total divorce with the image of itself. Even the delicate unmentionables draped on Brodsky’s sculptures—a spongy bra, a wan-looking undershirt, a stray sock missing its twin—turn out to be hard casts; literal manifestations of negative space. It’s declassé to air your dirty laundry in public, but the inscrutable nature of this laundry, soft folds hardened into sharp edges, might be the closest thing to a prescription for public conduct.

5-9, 2015
CES Gallery

Bright Resolutions refers in part to a measure of digital image quality—a term often conflated with semblance to the thing depicted—though at some point this conflation slips into questions of ontology. The higher the res, the closer to God. The area being set up here refuses to settle into any singular space. The domestic and the public, the digital, the “real”, the private, the open; all crushed together like patrons of a busy street café. Neither the installation of the exhibition nor the works themselves resolve into easy analogies for the equivocal nature of a word like resolution, both a precursor to political action and a bland marker of the commodification of vision.


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When the line between public property and private space dissolves, are you forever home, or forever trespassing? At what point do the soft folds of inner life become the hardened edges of persona? Bright Resolutions feels like an invitation to manifest these lines on my own terms.


There are no answers here, but there is space to think. That has to be enough.

Still Life with 2 Statues, 2016
CES Gallery

Note:


(1) See Clark’s radical examination of urban Paris through impressionist painting: The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985



Christina Catherine Martinez is a writer and comedic performer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in VICE, ArtForum, ArtSlant, New York Magazine, and The Art Book Review. She produces the monthly art/comedy talk show Aesthetical Relations, and is a 2016 recipient of an Art Writers Workshop grant from the Warhol Foundation.

CES Gallery