March 1 – March 30, 2014
For Marian, a group show at FiveMyles* in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is a posthumous homage to the Sculpture Center’s late director, Marion Griffiths. In her three-decade tenure as director (1981 – 2008), Griffiths launched the careers of countless artists and led the Sculpture Center into realms of new media. She was also a close friend and mentor to Hanne Tierney, the current director of FiveMyles, who remembers how, “Marian taught [her] to always stand at the doorway and look at the whole room.” For this group exhibition, six artists Griffiths supported during her lifetime were each asked to select an artist to include. The six chosen artists—all young and relatively unknown—were then curated by Tierney and participating artist Matt Freedman. They are Aaron Gilbert, Ceaphas Stubbs, Hanna Haworth, Mira Friedlaender, Alex White Mazzarella, and Andrew Wilson. There is little, if any, formal continuity between these artists, other than that they all share a special connectivity to Griffiths’s legacy: Griffith’s absence is thus the presence that binds these interesting and disparate artists.
Mia Friedlander’s small installation, assembled from unopened crates, folders, and packing tubes that belonged to her late mother, Bilgé Civelekoglu Friedlander, embodies this idea of absence made present. The artist’s statement confesses that she does not know what’s inside, so one can deduce that aesthetics were the primary consideration in placing them just so. The containers express a separate and perhaps more evocative narrative than what might be contained within. Each is labeled with Bilge’s name or address, so that she becomes a character, or perhaps an extension of Mira Friedlander herself. Likewise, Aaron Gilbert’s “Satellite” (2010) summons an absent person via both the enigmatic image and the materiality of his painting. Made from a thick aluminum slab, the small rectangular piece depicts a satellite in oil paint on the front, while the back holds a transparent reliquary specifically designed to display his grandfather’s wedding ring. The ring is placed directly behind center of the aluminum slab, turning the painting into a memorial object.
The inclusion of Caephus Stubbs, Alex White Mazzarella, and Andrew Wilson suggests that Griffiths was sensitive toward young artists working with politically or sexually evocative images. Stubbs photographs dioramas that he constructs from photo-collages of nude women, paper, string, and scraps of fabric. They recall Thomas Demand’s voyeuristic and politically charged simulacra, but even further, Stubbs implicates the figure, sexuality, and the gap between observing and understanding. The nude in “Untitled” (2014) brings to mind the immobilized figures of Hans Bellmer’s “La Poupée,” series (1936), reconstructing the body but still allowing the figure agency—she stands on her hands and knees and does not face the viewer, instead of lying supine or being watched from a distance. Two of Stubbs’s photographs are installed beside one of his dioramas, contrasting the textures, shadows, and depth of the sculpture with our impulse to search for meaning in flat photograph. The photograph only obliquely references the interior spaces that can be plainly observed in the diorama. Similarly, there is a difference within the photograph itself between the physical light captured by the camera and the sourced colors from the fabric swatches and found images. In other words, the contrast between natural light and fabricated light, as well as the narrative differences between an abstract sculpture and a photograph of that sculpture, distance the space between seeing a work and deriving meaning from it.
Another notable work is Matt Freeman’s “Hope is/are the Thing(s) with Wings: a late love note to Marian,” a piece made up of five small, brightly colored porcupine sculptures that discreetly flank the right wall as you enter. A large photocopy of a drawing Griffiths made for Tierney hangs directly above the sculptures with “Hanna” written in a playful script. As Griffiths suggested, one should always review the gallery from the door, and this pairing provides a gracious send-off as you leave the space.
*A show curated in tandem of works by Mia Westerlund is on view at Long Island University Humanities Gallery.