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//Grass Grows By Itself

Chakaia Booker, Mark Bradford, Dale Chihuly, Wade Guyton, David Hammons, Carmen Herrera, Jim Hodges, Wolfgang Laib, Cameron Martin, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Molly McIver, Virginia Overton, George Rickey, Leigh Ruple, Kianja Strobert, Richard Tuttle, Charline von Heyl, Robert Zungu

Marlborough Gallery Chelsea, New York
15 July – 9 September 2010

The exhibition includes artworks from both emerging and established artists in an effort to present a multigenerational dialectic of varying methodologies and disciplines. The title of the show, appropriated from a Zen proverb, offers the viewer an opportunity to “sit quietly, doing nothing, as when spring comes, the grass grows by itself…”. The exhibition echoes the proverb’s underlying sensibility by aligning artworks that reflect entropy, contemplation, the passage of time and self-awareness.

The featured works engage in a dialogue about the transience of society and mankind.  Chakaia Booker, who currently has solo exhibitions at DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum, Lincoln, MA and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, encourages the viewer to reconsider the frenetic pace of modern life by deconstructing car tires and reassembling them into expressive and gestural sculptures.  Similarly, Robert Žungu, who had his first solo show at Nicholas Robinson Gallery this past January, exhibits a wall sculpture of a cast plaster human arm that is situated beside a cast bronze hammer head shark’s skull, evocative of the perilous and delicate balance between man and nature, a key theme in this exhibition. The work of renowned 20th Century sculptor George Rickey uniquely reflects its maker’s interest in the delicacy of balance as his kinetic sculptures made from stainless steel respond to subtle shifts in air currents.  Jim Hodges, whose work is noted as being influenced by spirituality, constructs flowers from gold leaf, seemingly emerging out from the paper. Hodges’ sensitive use of such material creates a visual binary to Booker’s aggressive urban gestures. Balance is also a topic explored in Charline von Heyl’s abstract paintings. Von Heyl harnesses a complex painterly push-pull energy to confront and shape image-making through additive and subtractive processes. Von Heyl recently had a solo show at Petzel Gallery in New York with her paintings in the collections of MoMA, SFMoMA, and the Dallas Art Museum, amongst others.

Grass Grows by Itself proposes unexpected visual relationships between intergenerational artists: Carmen Herrera, still painting at age 95 with a recent major survey exhibition of her work at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, employs hard edge, geometric abstraction to graphically delineate space, form, shape and color, whereas Leigh Ruple, a recent graduate from Cooper Union School of Art, extends the possibility of figurative painting to humanize notions of contemporary feminism. Kianja Strobert, who received her MFA from Yale and has been showing with Jack Tilton Gallery in New York, has received notable attention for her series of Aggravated Dreams. Los Angeles artist Daniel Joseph Martinez exhibited provocative, powerful projects for two Whitney Biennial exhibitions, one of which was recently acquired for that museum’s permanent collection.  Martinez has an international reputation with major installations at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami and Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio, TX. Strobert and Martinez each reinterpret disparate paradigms of topography: Strobert questions the conflation of mixed media and gestural abstraction with formal composition principles, whereas Daniel Joseph Martinez disrupts and recombines language to offer a proclamation for our future as in the show’s 22-foot wall text, bracketed on both sides by exclamation marks, “The despair of imagination has exceeded the negativity of our time.”

As proposed in Grass Grows By Itself social progress occurs on an intimate, local level. Mark Bradford and Richard Tuttle each incorporate properties of cultural detritus and ephemera to reposition loss, possibility and chance. Bradford’s Merchant Posters, cull street posts found in Bradford’s downtown Los Angeles neighborhood, advertising everyday businesses and activities. Observing and mining his surroundings, Bradford’s reworking of these images exemplifies Everyman’s quotidian struggle. These issues of cultural detritus create major headlines today as they encroach on our environment, an area that Cameron Martin mindfully and quietly reinforces in his paintings of imaginary landscapes that may never have been witnessed. Wade Guyton’s U Sculpture creates a fetishized chromed U, elongated as an anthropomorphic form; hence, subverting properties of design to create an impeccably chromed surface that reflects the viewer, truncating and reflecting his or her own body.

Employing both natural and synthetic materials, Molly McIver solidifies eggs in resin, relegating the object in a state of frozen potential. By highlighting “unskilled skills,” such as driving a truck, Virginia Overton rearranges our environment so that we understand it through a more poetic lens as in the photograph of a mirror laid seemingly haphazardly in the back of her truck. The reflection in the mirror shows us the world from a different, graceful perspective, while couched in urban reality. With the exception of Bradford, each of these artists resides in New York and is a part of the New York art scene with thriving careers. Martin’s work was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and has work in that institution’s permanent collection. Guyton, also a Whitney Biennial participant in 2004, has work in MoMA’s permanent collection and currently has a solo exhibition at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Mark Bradford lives and works in Los Angeles.  Bradford, a recipient of the Bucksbaum Whitney Biennial Award, has a traveling survey show which is currently at the Wexner Museum of Art, Ohio.

Dale Chihuly, internationally known as a master glass blower, continually mines his medium to create dramatically visual sensations. Formal shapes, such as the line, are an iconic formal gesture in Chihuly’s work.  This is a reoccurring shape in many of the artworks included in the exhibition, creating a comparative dialogue with works such as the hard edge lines in Herrera’s paintings and the organic lines in Strobert’s works. Chihuly’s participation in this group show is a prelude to his expansive solo exhibition opening this September at Marlborough Chelsea.

In Grass Grows By Itself, artists of different generations present a diverse, yet compatible poetic; the artworks allow these artistic practices to come together as a unified platform creating a new community. The show goes one step further by taking diversity to form a thread of artistic practices that have yet to be explored in this way. As in the case of someone such as David Hammons, on the surface his work may appear to have nothing to do with Wolfgang Laib, yet each of their unique perspectives on space and subjectivity are aligned and when posited in the same exhibition, create a new meaning. The goal and inspiration for this exhibition was exactly this, to explore how artists’ unique, and often intimate, perspectives speak to a more universal condition and create new dialogues.

Sima Familant is a private curator and art advisor. Before starting her art advisory company in 2005, Familant was with Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in New York where she staged important exhibitions that catapulted many emerging artists to success. Previously she worked as the Director of Greene Naftali Gallery in New York. She received her MA in Post-War and Contemporary Art from Sotheby’s Institute in London.

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