James Cohan Gallery
It’s hard to imagine that this is Ingrid Calame’s first solo exhibit in New York. The colors are intense. Calame writes, "Color for me is a trigger for thoughts and memories, one color leads to another— like writing a rambling poem." Several paintings hang in the first room of the gallery, each holds a collection of stains traced from the streets of L.A. and New York, transcribed in brightly pigmented enamels onto aluminum. The forms themselves act as an index of events from our past, or rather the dirt and muck we leave behind. The candy-colored splats and stains are personified through phonetic titles like "eeec-Ffw-eeec-FfwFFw, and "hoo-koo-koo-koo," noises one could read in action comics or imagine as sounds of wild motion. Calame has taken left over stains from past events and strategically distilled the marks into a series of monster collisions.
In the next room, Calame’s work takes on something of a wholly different magnitude— the New York Stock Exchange. "Secular Response 2 A.M" (2002) measures a total of 15,000 square feet. Too large to be shown complete, two excerpts are on display. The room resonates with a vibrant green, automatically suggesting some kind of landscape. I asked Calame about the tracing process of the twelve-foot high mylar sheets. She said that the trading room was the physical boundary for the painting, and proceeded to point out large gaps in the painted forms as columns and similar obstructions from the floor. The sheets of mylar were put together like pieces of a puzzle, with every stain on the floor traced and documented, creating a kind of topography of economic power. And there were many stains on the floor. When asked why the NYSE, she told me it was a form of communicating systems of information. In describing her process for the exhibit of "Secular Response 2 A.M." at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, the curator writes, "Economics, for the artist, is one of three systems of knowledge through which to understand and come to terms with the impermanence of life." The first system is religion, which she explores in her project "Secular Response 1" (2000), tracing the Ardsley Methodist Church, New York, and the third focusing on "science and the cognitive system," still to be made but which will include tracing constellations within an observatory. Calame treats the charged subject of economics with a combination of process, form, and a free use of color. I found out later that a private dinner was held after the opening reception within the walls of "Secular Response 2." I wondered if the floor would be cleaned afterwards, or would a new project emerge, addressing a less colossal system of knowledge.
Displacing the residue of urban topography or transforming the floor of a global economic market, Calame renders the markings of our culture in a colorful visual medium. She has presented an archeological view into the contemporary human landscape by tracing and documenting the stains of our existence.