Goodbye to Language: Mary Temple at Mixed Greens

According to advertising, just about anything can be deemed the newest, the best, or the greatest. Superlatives run rampant and unregulated, inflating language and distorting meaning. A similar thing happens in the political sphere, and there, the potential upshot is much more dire. Painter Mary Temple investigates the complex relationship between power and language and its consequent unreliability in her latest exhibition at Mixed Greens, “true enough.”

UNKNOW UNKNOW (2014)riffs on Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous 2002 statement regarding the relationship between the Iraqi government and weapons of mass destruction. In Temple’s painting, the words are silhouetted against a gray and blue abstract background. In altering “unknown” slightly, Temple turns it into a nonexistent verb, an ostensibly impossible act—to un-know. She does it again in unsee, unhear, unspeak (2014).In this piecethe text is posed crossword-style and appears in a computer font rather than the handwriting of the former. By nullifying the words this way, Temple pushes viewers to ask themselves what it means to perform the original action—what does it mean to know, see, hear, and speak?

Temple morphs another word in Sure Sure (2013), using thick orange and brown paint to smear it down the canvas. A word typically associated with confidence and certainty is made messy and unclear on the canvas. Terrible Swift Sword (2014) takes its title from the patriotic American song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Only the word “terrible” is apparent in the painting, barely visible amidst a flurry of paint strokes and drips in tan, pink and orange-brown.

Temple uses painting to conjure uncertainty; it is a means to interrogating our notion of truth. She is best known for her “Light Installations” series, where she paints the illusion of light in a given space, mimicking the shadows of trees and windowpanes on the walls and floors. In this show, she uses painting as a foil and an atmosphere for the text it beholds, a portrait of the convoluted truth we are often presented with by political media.

—M.A. Wholey

true enough” is on view at Mixed Greens, New York, Nov. 20, 2014–Jan. 10, 2015.

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