The main gallery features a presentation of Fowler’s black-and-white 16-mm film, entitled with it which it as it if it is to be, shot in 2016. The film shows mixed cuts of a series of studio visits with women and gender non-conforming artists in New York and Los Angeles. All the artists featured have collaborated with Fowler and Artist Curated Projects, her artist-led space she has run for the last ten years from her Los Angeles apartment. Overlaying the footage is an audio with the artists’ voices reciting a 1910 text by Gertrude Stein called Many Many Women; this quintessential feminist text exquisitely occupies the subdued landscape of the film’s absent sound.
Stein’s iconic short, repetitive, nontraditional prose parallels the editing of Fowler’s film, which captures a series of moments, short glimpses of artists’ practices and lives, often out of order but familiar and intimate all the same. After settling into the seemingly nonsensical cascade of repetitious sentences in the voice-over, one gradually becomes hypnotized into the arrangement Fowler has created with the iconic rhythm of Stein’s words. Experiencing the film becomes much like visiting a past, jumbled memory: flashes of reminiscent images and feelings, where Stein’s prose echoes like a voice in one’s head. Throughout the film, hands mold clay, mix paint and handle tools, arms dance through sunlit studios and fingers twist wire. As if reading a book by flipping back and forth to read non-sequential pages, eventually a feeling for a story is revealed. As the scenery shifts and then returns, the artists’ faces and voices slowly become more and more recognizable, and the story of Stein and Fowler’s woman, and every gender non-conforming person, becomes strikingly familiar. Each one is one. There are many of them. Each one is one.
With it which it as it if it is to be is also the title and featured text of a new neon work Fowler presents in blue, white and yellow. Arranged in a circle, the shape of the piece also recalls the repetitive, cyclical nature of Stein’s writing style, which has no clearly defined beginning, middle nor end but encompasses a whole of an invisible, orbiting body.
Expanding her past collage works into a new medium, Fowler offers the viewer an additional point of entry into Stein’s prose with her mirror-polished aluminum works. The viewer is reflected on the panel’s surface as they approach, forced to encounter themselves in order to read the text confrontationally overlaying their reflection. The panel images were taken from very personal notebooks in which Fowler arranged collaged letters to spell out various excerpts from Stein’s text. Done in Fowler’s own recognizable font, the letters themselves were clipped from Art Forum magazine; Fowler uses other artists disseminated and recognizable images, occasionally powerful male figures in the international art world, deconstructs them and repositions them into a text which is explicitly female and queer. She reclaims theses fragments and repurposes them in order to inspire and engage her viewer. Fowler’s work is meant to be open-ended and allow the viewer to reach their own meaning, so, a literal self-reflection aids in this personal engagement.
One specific reading of Fowler’s work it is that it captures an activist sentiment: Rose. Rose. Rose up. Rose. Rose. Rose up. Rose. Rose up. Through modern eyes, Stein can be placed amongst the implied progressive women, the many, many women, who rose up to give today’s women the chance to reflect on themselves, celebrate the progress they have made, and heed the call to go further. Fowler’s work reminds us of the power of words, language and the importance of their context in light of recent conversations surrounding issues of gender politics. The title of her exhibition, Language that Rises, perfectly encapsulates the strength behind Fowler’s infinitely complex gestures. Resisting being one is a way of being.
Originally trained as a photographer, Fowler has spent the last decade creating a body of work across mediums as an in-depth response to the 100-year-old writings of Gertrude Stein. Her film with it which it as it if it is to be, 2016 has been screened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Tate St. Ives, Participant Inc. New York, and Dundee Contemporary Arts in Scotland where she is currently having a major exhibition, what a slight. what a sound. what a universal shudder. (9 June – 26 August 2018) which also includes several public works. Eve Fowler’s work belongs to many major museum collections including the Los Angeles Museum of Art, The Hammer, Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
with it which it as it if it is to be cinematography by Mariah Garnett
Artists featured in film:
Anna Sew Hoy
Lauren Davis Fisher
Pearl C. Hsiung