|curator's statement||september 2005 selection|
c r o s s i n g t h e l i n e
c u r a t o r : r a c h e l g u g e l b e r g e r
Diverse in approach and use of materials, the artistic dialogues explored in Crossing the Line intersect in a shared, relentless urge to convey permanence. While all the images bear the formal line as a starting point, or counterpoint, the works ultimately cross the theoretical lines of personal, physical and categorical boundaries. Imbued with an ineffaceable commemorative quality drawn from personal experience, these works touch upon a collective, cultural memory.
The notebook lines of numbers and text in Stephen Andrews' "Album" series form diaristic inventories: A list of boys kissing (or perhaps boys the artist has kissed) and a calendar page that renders the days of the month smeared by the rapidity of time. For Eric Rhein, texts become a point of departure, from which three-dimensional wire-forms elaborate on the illustrations on the pages of discarded books, contemplating the commonalities between animal, plant and human life forms.
The mingling of animal and human forms takes another shape in Bern Boyle's photographs, capturing skin extensively tattooed with animals, astrological signs and tribal designs. While Boyle shows skin almost completely covered by ink, Blanchon's "Self-Portrait With Tattoo" and "Untitled" depict tattoos that express emptiness. Void of a name or slogan, these blank banners may be waiting to be completed sometime in the future, but are now left for the viewer to fill in with their own perceptions. There is no mystery to the tattoos captured by Jose Luis Cortes' photographs of a prison inmate inked with a bodybuilder displaying an erection and the large word "Boricua," showing pride in Puerto Rican heritage. Pages from Jose Ortiz's extensive notebook collection of tattoo designs (complete with the cost for each design) represent a multitude of expressions to choose from as well as the possibility of permanence -- for a price.
Tattoos approach some kind of permanence through the use of symbols and slogans that are both private and public. The union of a collective symbol and slogan to express the struggle for the lives of individuals is at the heart of Keith Haring's painting "Silence = Death." Named after ACT UP's famous slogan, Haring's agonized figures float, ghostlike, above and over an inverted pink triangle, a symbol for lesbian and gay culture.
The power of graphic art brings life to Michael Slocum's comic strip "Zander Alexander, PWA," an edgy series that tells the story of an African-American gay man with AIDS and serves as a visual testament of Slocum's life in particular, as well as a form of testimonial literature.
A simple graphical treatment is used in Felix Gonzalez-Torres' "Double Portrait" -- a stack of paper, each marked with two circles touching, is portraiture and ideology reduced to base elements, possibly suggesting two heads, or even the symbol for infinity. In a stack of pages that read "Memorial Day Weekend" -- Gonzalez-Torres leaves the meaning of "memorial" open-ended: Who decides what event or person(s) should be remembered? That the individual pages are for the taking by the viewer imbues the work with a souvenir-like quality while passing on to another the artist's will to remember.
Ultimately, these artists explore the struggle for individual permanence in a fleeting life. Through personal stories and expressions of individual and collective experience, these works show the power of the line -- as well as the power of its absence. In some way, the journeys made when lines are crossed can be recorded as images and forms that bear the memory of history in the making.
b i o g r a p h y
Rachel Gugelberger is a New York-based independent curator. Recent exhibitions include "Scroll," for the pages of the Visual Arts Journal; "Beginning Here: 101 Ways," co-curated with Jerry Saltz at the Visual Arts Gallery; "Rubbish" at Cuchifritos Art Gallery/Project Space and "Freehand" at Marvelli Lab. Rachel received an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies in Contemporary Art & Culture at Bard College.