On the Brink: Two Artists Explore the Threat of Collapse

At Taymour Grahne Gallery this month, two artists explore the threat of collapse, creating works that hover on the brink—between order and chaos, structure and disintegration, the physical and immaterial. In “Parallel Realms,” Iraqi-Kurdish artist Walid Siti’s large-scale site-specific installation forms a towering structure of white ladders against a wall, evoking the mountains, pyramids, Ziggurats, and ladders of Kurdish folklore. The haphazardly arranged construction appears to defy the laws of gravity, suggesting an imminent breakdown.

His black-and-white paintings and works on paper employ the same vocabulary, but in two dimensions. In dense fields of cross-hatched black and white paint, undulating forms seem to emerge and disappear again, recurring pyramidal structures to draw their substance from the surrounding environment, and meld back into it. The terrains in Siti’s work—both two-dimensional and three-dimensional—refer to the topographies of his native Kurdistan, as well as forming a metaphor for the fragile and uncertain future of his homeland, and the weak foundations of Iraq’s reconstruction.

Similarly, in Corey Escoto’s “Surface Tension,” several rudimentary sculptures include cinder blocks balanced precariously on plywood boards. Escoto explores the tension between flat and physical forms, and between analog and digital, reversing the traditional relationship of image to subject so that the three-dimensional takes its cue from the two-dimensional. He presents manipulated Polaroid photos—resembling computer-generated collages—which he creates by shooting through hand-cut stencils and filters to abstract the view through his lens so that patterned surfaces and geometric objects appear to float in space.

In the gallery, Escoto’s sculptures sit on decorative and textured plinths—some, like one of the gallery walls, are colored to create an ombre effect. The resulting works—both two- and three-dimensional—recall virtual realities where experiences of depth and flatness overlap, merge, and then diverge once more. Escoto’s three-dimensional works resonate playfully with his wall works, producing tension between the perception of permanence and ephemerality. Like Siti’s works, Escoto’s occupy a realm of in-betweenness; they are neither one thing nor another. Both challenge us to find stable ground and orient ourselves in shifting, frail, or uncertain terrains.

Parallel Realms” and “Surface Tension” are on view at Taymour Grahne Gallery March 13–April 13, 2014.

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