Sideshow Gallery March 15 - April 13, 2008
“The human being is this night, this empty nothing, that contains everything in its simplicity—an unending wealth of presentations, images, none of which occurs to him or is present. This night, the inner one of nature that exists here—this pure self—in phantasmagorical presentations . . . here shoots out a bloody head, there a white shape . . . One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings in the eye—”
The eternal return of the same is not metaphysics; it’s an aesthetic! The obsessive-compulsive busies herself frantically to insure that nothing happens, furiously weaving nets to bind trauma. That “trauma” is real life. Shock, lack, and the abyssal wail remain in force then wrest control, but such discord is not well captured by mere fracture. Fragmentation is facile. Discontinuity and disjunction are but stylists’ masks when compared to this seamless smoothing over of deep scission.
Writing once of Richard Tuttle, the critic John Perrault said, “An earmark of genius is that often the result is unbelievably simple.” While a strict logician’s rule maintains the simplest answer will be true, this entails too that any excess must be necessary. In a kinder, gentler double bind we may find that what is welcome never is unnecessary . . . The deceptively simple paintings of Lori Ellison approach excess through a fond obsession. Here pattern sways in the underplayed way poppies grace the wallpaper designs of Pre-Raphaelite lotus-eater, William Morris. The psychological abstractions of Louise Bourgeois come also to mind, combined with the raptures of pure paint in James Siena.
Choosing a palette of subdued hues as warmly wed as lilac, lavender and violet, ultramarine with sky, Ellison’s hushed repetitions induce a subtle swoon. Pliant logic. Half laughing, she calls one new series “Classical” for its timeless—if freehand—geometries. I’d call it, planned enchantment.
The Illusion of Continuity, Better Than Actual Fracture
Every night I kill him. I don’t know why. He cries because I kill him. That’s why I’m sad. He wears a black hat, and all black clothes and he’s sleeping, so I kill him. Sometimes he talks to me. But what can I say to Illusion?
Then there’s the Second Appearance. He scares me. Sometimes he chases me. He’s gray. All over. Gray eyes and gray down there. Gray face. Blue lips. Hair sticking out like a floor mop. He’s the floor man. He roams the floor.
Why do men on other planets cry all the time? Earthlings cry too, but not as much as the man in the black suit.
Ellison’s paintings are 2 × 3 feet or 8 ½ x 11 inches, accomplished in gouache, and presented in three series based on the color wheel. Her drawings are executed with Papermate pens (“Bic doesn’t work”) on 8 ½ x 11 inch college-lined notebook pages, then mounted on wood or displayed in binders. These are not sketches or occasional works but have been her fixation for 10 years.
If serenity is suspect, it also is soft spoken. Ellison’s visions murmur. We talk about reading painting. But illegibilty hovers and covers over this entrancing trelliswork like Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths. We get deliciously lost. Both hypnotic and quixotic; delirium finds too many routes between beauty’s mark and muted meaning.
“Due to the size of the page and the density of the figures and mainly the hours and hours that I was putting in I would go to sleep with the curlicues or nerve nets flashing in front of me the way the lines in the road keep coming at you when you’ve been driving too long at night then try to close your eyes and sleep.” (Lori Ellison)
“So one may lie [on the sea cliffs] and symbolize until one falls asleep, and that be a symbol as well.” (William Morris)
Inches from insanity; the drive inside this curtain work chills me to the bone. Our phantom limb calls for relentless mending.
Shari Mendelson is showing simultaneously at the Sideshow Gallery
Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle is an American poet and art critic. He lives in Paris and New York City.