All Pores Openby Molly Elizalde
REGINA REX | JANUARY 11 – FEBRUARY 22, 2015
All Pores Open showcases four seemingly very different artists, Shirley Gorelick (1924 – 2000), Ted Partin (born 1977), and artist duo Dit-Cilinn (born 1983) and David Ohlsson (born 1985), all of whom engage with the problem of portraying identities. While unusual to have a small show with works made more than 50 years apart, the gallery, owned and run by artists, grasps at a particular struggle amongst artists: How can they access genuine humanity when individuals increasingly hide themselves behind public personas? How do they portray human relationships in this culture of individuals obsessed with portraying a perfect version of their true selves?
Gorelick was an artist interested in humanism and psychology. Although she counted Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism as early influences, her works became largely realist as she matured. On view are “Large Dark Figure” (1962 – 63), a shadowy, abstract painting, and “Two Sisters” (1976), a highly realistic work of two female nudes, both of which reveal the range of her exploration into how best to capture her subjects. Gorelick’s shifting styles act as a framework for the show. Her earlier abstract works examine the effect of a human on the artist—a general feeling of the individual suggested through color and form—whereas later realist works focus more on the psychology of her subjects through representation of human features. Each of the artists play with form to study its success in capturing their subjects.
The title “Large Dark Figure” gives the viewer little to identify of the individual. Abstract figures necessarily leave the true emotion behind the subject to interpretation. Here, Gorelick studies how to render humanistic sentiments through form. In contrast, “Two Sisters” focuses on realist expressions of the subject, being more specific to the individuality of the models. Gorelick switches styles, as any artist might, to question the formal success of certain techniques: Is the effect of an abstract form in color and shape more genuine to the human? Or can truth only be rendered through the details of the individual? The answer lies in how the viewer engages with the subjects to understand the intimate moment shared by Gorelick and her models. Over time, Gorelick concluded that form is a more genuine portrayal of an individual’s psychology.
Like Gorelick, Ted Partin investigates the formal qualities of obscuring the model in his photographic “dark prints.” In “Untitled I” (2011) and “Untitled II” (2012), Partin’s subjects are barely visible, requiring the viewer to scrutinize figures that are almost indistinguishable from the space around them. Looking closely at the faint shapes, the viewer can distinguish body position and facial expression, but a lack of color renders the works less emotionally specific in their abstraction.
Partin’s three other photographs in the show feature women who engage with him in some way: The subject of “Bushwick II” (2010) stands topless, looking straight at the camera, her face half in shadow and her skin marked harshly by the sun; in contrast, the figure in “Bushwick I” (2012) sits folded over her knees, her body positioned away from the camera; and finally, “Ulster Park” (2012) captures a woman in a red leotard standing in the woods with a camera. Clearly posed, the individuals engage with Partin as he attempts to arrest a human moment. Here, the artist studies the effect of color and light on the portrayal of the subject: The dark prints make the idea of a hidden individual clear—hidden to the viewer who has no way to access the intimacy of the artist-subject relationship. But even with more distinguishable features, the clearly-lit prints don’t reveal much more to the viewer. Partin uncovers the problem of truly exhibiting intimate knowledge of an individual. A viewer can understand that genuineness only through what they perceive or judge to be true. By investigating the expressive potential of both abstraction and realism, obscure and clear renderings, Gorelick and Partin both grapple with the viewer’s ability to grasp the intimacy behind a portrait or access the true consciousness of the moment.
Artist duo Dit-Cilinn and Ohlsson’s style differs from those of Gorelick and Partin, yet they also question the true nature of human relationships. Again, we see the inquiry into how to capture genuine reality, but Dit-Cilinn and Ohlsson bring into question the individual’s reluctance to be perceived as a human with all the inevitable imperfections.
Dit-Cilinn and Ohlsson take direct engagement with the viewer as their subject. “Synchronizing Lamp” (2013) is a composition of soil, birch bark, and weeds assembled on the floor of the gallery; in the center stands a two-sided lamp with bulbs on both ends flashing in a synchronized pattern. The premise is that two viewers would sit on either side and experience the same rhythm of light. Without actually engaging with each other, the viewers share an experience. The work calls to mind ideas first raised by Minimalist artists such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd, questioning the position of works in the gallery and the problem of their delicacy. While the work is not actually minimalist, it does confront the viewer with those themes. The soil spreads out onto the gallery floor and the height of the lamp sits below hip height, positioning the work awkwardly. To sit on the floor with another person across from the lamp would seem to break established rules of public behavior. This kind of Minimalist approach, creating discomfort in the gallery space, tries to access that aspect of our humanity that is otherwise not available in a traditional gallery setting. The consciousness elicited by interacting with the lamp rather than the other individual highlights the artists’ difficulty with increasingly closed relationships and the struggle to communicate with someone in a truly intimate manner.
The show’s titular work, “All Pores Open” (2013), also by Dit-Cilinn and Ohlsson, is a suspended plank covered in moss. Positioned in a corner of the gallery where viewers can circulate around it, “All Pores Open” also makes the viewer the subject of the work. Rather than the artist capturing the likeness of an individual, each individual captures his or her own relationship to the work. Unlike Gorelick and Partin, Dit-Cilinn and Ohlsson rely on human curiosity to elicit awareness. By eschewing portraiture to depict individuals, the duo avoids the problem of how to approach a hidden individual. Instead, viewer engagement is the principal access point to human experience because consciousness lies most prominently within the self.
Working to reveal genuine consciousness through varying styles, the four artists in All Pores Open question the ability of artistic practice to truly capture their subjects for a viewer outside the intimate artist-subject relationship. The title of the show suggests vulnerability and a deep consideration of humanity: Where is the genuine self if it’s hidden in obscurity and abstraction? Can it be extracted by realism or only through viewer engagement? Projecting the artists’ experience onto the viewer, the smart curators at Regina Rex will leave you with no definitive answers.