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The climb up the carpeted stairs to Garden, a gallery perched atop the guest house of an old Victorian home in Echo Park, primes you for intimacy. And the gallery’s current group show, Entangled Matter, curated by Kavior Moon, delivers on that promise. Paired at the center of the compact room are two shelf-like wooden pedestals, on which Catherine Fairbanks’ ceramic objects—encrusted with pasted images of modern dancers, anthurium flowers, and classical-looking archways—share space with Alwyn O’Brien’s eccentric porcelain forms, which spill over themselves in a tangle of filigree. On the walls, multi-exposure color photographs by Katrina Umber capture glints and blurs of bodily outlines superimposed with views of nature, opposite Candice Lin’s mixed-media collages combining plant matter, scientific and ethnographic illustrations, and texts that expose the latter’s cultural biases.
The exhibition’s premise poses the notion of “entanglement”—a blurring of lines between conventional binaries and typologies, to breed interdependence and connectedness—as a throughline for these objects, and each artist does defy categorization using different formal and conceptual strategies. Artworks, by their very nature, tend to want to fix gestures or moments in time (the medium of photography has this at its basis), yet Umber’s layered imagery lyrically merges figure and ground, offering rhythmic, photographic bursts of skin, skyline, and foliage. Though pots are ancient, longstanding forms, the solidity of Fairbanks’ vessels is countered by the ghostly ephemerality of her paper inclusions, nebulous glazes, and her dancers’ taught young bodies. Lin’s more didactic collages, meanwhile, are outright critiques of Western systems of classification, particularly of non-white, non-male subjects; the shifting appearance of her slowly rotting flower specimens taped inside the frames add further levels of temporal and physical ambiguity as they change over time.
Yes, there are other artists who look to situate their work in the spaces between established categories, such that meaning remains receptive to outside influence and interpretation. Yet the many nods to the natural world, recurring compositional arcs and curves, and repeated emphasis on the handcrafted—coupled with the close quarters and warmth of the space itself—give these artists’ works a compelling symbiosis, and a feminist thrust. Like O’Brien’s ceramics, which impossibly maintain their balance despite being in a perpetual state of unraveling, we would do well to break ourselves down in order to rebuild—more entangled, connected—in collaboration with the world around us.
Entangled Matter runs from February 10–March 31, 2019 at Garden (1345 Kellam Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026).