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As a teen I practiced “finding the apex” while driving the winding back stretch of road to my parents’ house. Finding the apex, or “finding the line” as it’s defined by race car drivers, was a strategy my brother taught me to go faster: instead of hugging turns, I guided the car toward the center of the street to avoid losing time by turning the wheel. I made my own path outside the painted boundaries provided by the city, believing wholeheartedly that I was accelerating through my dull suburban girlhood. My teenage angst was confined by the road, or so I thought, and finding the line was a way to seek a path where speed added to the illusion of my great escape. The line was what I made it.
Though the primacy of the line is postured as a curatorial departure point in Tactility of the Line, a group exhibition at Elevator Mondays, five artists transcend its simplicity and use it as a way to embody a central energy, expressing it through texture, an illusion of movement, and volume in order to consider its implications beyond its trapped position in formal art historical contexts. By elaborating shape and mood, the artists offer a more palpable experience that’s sharpened by the tight quarters of the space: a small freight elevator.
Art meets the body at a kinetic point; the distance between an artist and her work—both psychic and physical—is undeniably intimate. When shown in a cramped space like an elevator, this distance is instantly mitigated. To be close to art—to smell it or bump against it feels antithetical to more traditional spaces like galleries or museums where close proximity to art is discouraged.
One of the biggest payoffs to being close to the art in Tactility is found in the color and texture of Jonathan Ryan’s painting Rio Trio (2016), which pulls the eye like an obstacle course. Its bright graphic quality evinces monster truck rallies with a serpentine racetrack that is stippled with actual dirt. A flat lack of perspective not unlike an ancient bas relief lets time collapse through the curves of orange and white striped chicanes. On the opposite wall, hangs Michael Kennedy Costa’s inky Low Wind (2016), whose title speaks of natural or windblown movement and evidences an emotive touch within a convention of line work. Costa’s curvature is spirited and open. A wispy portrait emerges.
The only truly touchable piece is Tanya Brodsky’s OH, YEAAHH (2017), which acts as the literal gateway to the exhibition, adhered to the elevator’s entrance. Her sculptural metal gate is made to look pliable, with bent grates cradling a giant yellow balloon. The Gallagher-style humor in Brodsky’s fictive gate softens the act of disfiguration, making hard metal seem responsive to the slightest touch as it swings through the space.
Elsewhere, Connor Fields utilizes materiality to propose a bit of physics-defying magic in Sedimentary Straw (2017). A bendy plastic straw shunts through a seemingly hard mineral hung high above the door; its vantage point is only accessible if you step inside the room, standing near Fields’ Green Stratum (2017), a floor piece of a sulky rock-like form with a green strip of silicone sediment. It sits heavy next to Ariel Herwitz’s Olive Branch (2017), a tangle of overdyed yarn the color of mopwater that hung hairlike from a cut of maple wood and suspended a few inches above the floor, barely levitating despite its tired weight. It reads as an offering to the room and is bound with a rust-like ceramic ring, cut before it completes its circle. Both works feel totemic and earthbound without cliché symbolism, their languid quality contrast with the humor and lightness found in other works.
In the round, the arrangement of Tactility bounces between feeling free form and crowded, compressed but expressive. There’s an unexpected freedom in the confinement at Elevator Mondays that leads the act of looking without any easy choices or right turns. There is no going fast, but rather the viewer is forced to move incrementally, reestablishing a relationship to their body—boundaries can be intimate and constraints often lead to deeper and more exciting results.
This review was originally published in Carla issue 10.