Rosalyn Drexler’s work often explores the dark backstories of postwar media culture and gender roles through imagery taken from mass-produced printed materials. For Love and Violence (1965), she enlarged a poster from the 1963 Hollywood film, Toys in the Attic, collaged it onto canvas and then painted over it within a flattened visual field. In this image, the movie’s main character, played by Dean Martin, embraces the female lead, Yvette Mimieux, with his hands at her chin. By setting the image against a red background, above cinematic scenes of brutality, Drexler highlights the threat implied by the male character’s seemingly intimate gesture. In the artist’s words, these popular images were “hidden but present, like a disturbing memory.”
In 1947, while a student at Back Mountain College, Ruth Asawa (1926 – 2013) made a visit to Toluca, Mexico. There, she was introduced to a local method of crocheting wire to create baskets for carrying eggs. The discovery led Asawa to experiment with weaving wire into continuous, organic forms like the above Untitled sculpture (1955), which is described as a hanging six-lobed, complex interlocking continuous form-within-a-form, with two interior spheres. These works challenged conventional ideas of sculpture by embracing utilitarian craft methods and relying on the ceiling instead of the floor for support.
Photographed September 2020
In the early 1950s, Asawa later explained, the art establishment passed over her work because “it wasn’t traditional sculpture. They thought it was craft, or something else, but not art.” For Asawa, woven wire offered many possibilities of form and resulted in a work that was both transparent and airy, qualities that make the surrounding space part of the experience of the work and emphasize the connection between the interior and the exterior of the object.
In We Wither Time into a Coil of Fright, artist Jill Mulleady (b. 1989, Montevideo, Uruguay) portrays a surreal landscape populated by multiple figures. Though the individuals are clustered close to one another by the riverbank, they appear disconnected — even self absorbed.
The work suggests that contemporary life is hyperconnected yet ultimately isolating, a sense heightened by the scene’s lush natural surroundings. Without the protection and surveillance of the built environment, Mulleady asks, are her subjects more free, more vulnerable, or both?
This mural went up in March 2020 and is on indefinite view. You can see it from the beginning of the High Line on a building located at 95 Horatio Street.
Current, Mid-Pandemic Photo Taken July 18th, 2020.
Mirror of Life (1946), like many of Henry Koerner’s paintings, reveals the artist’s preoccupation with his experiences during World War II. Born in Vienna to Jewish parents, Koerner (1915 – 1991) escaped Austria following Hitler’s1938 invasion, fleeing first to Italy and subsequently to the United States. Soon after, he was drafted by the US military and stationed in Europe, where he was assigned to sketch the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials, the military tribunals in which leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for war crimes. Koerner returned to Vienna in 1946 only to learn that his parents, who’d stayed in Austria, had died in concentration camps during the war. Mirror of Life emerges from this context of conflict and loss. Disorienting juxtapositions — night and day, biblical events and present-day life, ordinary pastimes and bizarre phenomena — present a chaotic and disjunctive reflection of reality. The shirtless man leaning out of his window seems to be a stand-in for the artist. Home, for him, is not only the place where one resides but also a vantage point to witness all that has been lost.
With elements of both figuration and abstraction, Walter Price’s paintings shift between everyday realities and invented worlds. Couches and cars float and merge into landscapes as space expands and contracts. Price’s subjects are drawn from his own experiences as well as familiar cultural symbols. The artist’s fluency with color, texture, and form gives physical weight to these liminal, dreamlike spaces. In making each new series of works, Price also sets limits. Sometimes he challenges himself to create a big impact on a small scale; in other paintings, as with The Things That Horse Ourselves for Uncertainty (2018), he reduces his palette to only a few colors. Mixing fragments of memory, recurring signs and symbols, and abstract figures engaged in unclear, ambiguous interactions, the paintings refuse the viewer’s efforts to find a fixed perspective or narrative.
National Times (2016 / 2019) by Augustina Woodgate (b. 1981) is a closed-circuit network of clocks synchronized directly by the power grid. Since the Industrial Revolution, schools, factories, hospitals, and offices have used this kind of network architecture — referred to as a “master/slave” configuration — to keep consistent time.
A single digital master clock sends power signals to a series of analog slave clocks, commanding synchronized measure across an entire institution. The master keeps steady time based on a pulse transmitted directly from the local power grid, whose frequency is aligned with the atomic clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which establishes official United States time.
Here, the hands of the slave clocks have been outfitted with sand paper. As National Times progresses, the minute hands of the slave clock scrape away the numerals on their faces until they are completely erased. Conditioned by the current state of labor and power, the slave clocks progressively erode their functional value, collectively reclaiming autonomy in the process of disintegration.
National Times, Installation View
Photographed as Part of the 2019 Biennial Exhibit at The Whitney Museum in NYC
Todd Gray’s work draws from his archive of photographs amassed during the past forty-five years of his career. Taken in locations from Hollywood to Ghana (where he maintains a studio), these images have been selected by the artist to explore the complex interrelation of Blackness, diasporic identity, and historic systems of exploitation. For his ongoing series Exquisite Terribleness, begun in 2013, Gray collages photographs into a layered arrangements of thrift store frames, creating compositions of fragmented bodies. Many of the individual photographs that Gray uses for his collages were shot following his own creative visions; others, such as in Euclidean Gris Gris 2 (2018) were commissioned, including many he took as Michael Jackson’s personal photographer in the 1970s and early 1980s. Jackson is significant here for Gray not as a celebrity or figure of controversy, but as a global phenomenon whose almost mythic status serves to frame the complex issues explored in Gray’s work. Michael Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse in 1983 and then tried and acquitted for the crime in 2005. New allegations surfaced in a documentary released on HBO in early 2019.
Photographed as Part of The 2019 Biennial Exhibit at The Whitney Museum, NYC
Edward Hopper’s Seven A.M. (1948) depicts an anonymous storefront cast in the oblique, eerie shadows and cool light of early morning. The store’s shelves stand empty, and the few odd products displayed in the window provide no evidence of the store’s function. A clock on the wall confirms the time given in the title, and indeed the painting seems to depict a specific moment and place. Yet a series of Hopper’s preparatory sketches reveal that he experimented with significant compositional variations, depicting a figure in the second story window. He even considered setting the painting at another time of day. His wife, Josephine Hopper, a respected artist herself, described the store as a “blind pig” — a front for some illicit operation, perhaps alluding to the painting’s forbidding overtones.
In Orange Mood (1966), Helen Frankenthaler (1928 – 2011) thinned acrylic paint to the consistency of watercolor in order to create larger, curving expanses of color through which the weave of the canvas remains visible. Like Jackson Pollack, she placed her canvas directly on the floor and poured paint from above, largely without the aid of a brush. Frankenthaler used color as her painterly language, but she never entirely abandoned representation. Although the references can be subtle, her paintings consistently evoke nature. The undulating forms in Orange Mood relate to a simplified landscape, with zones of color recalling different emotional states. Hue and shape convey place and feeling. “I think of my pictures as explosive landscapes, worlds and distances, held on a flat surface,” Frankenthaler once stated.
Photographed as Part of The Exhibit Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s, On View Through August 2019 at the Whitney Museum in NYC.
With Half Mast, Derek Fordjour debuts a new work that reflects on the current national reckoning with mass shootings, and the relentless threat of violence against Black and Brown bodies. A portrait of this divided moment in U.S. history, Half Mast presents law officers, students, and ordinary civilians in one compressed, shared space. Alongside teddy bears and balloons reminiscent of street-side memorials, some figures appear marked with targets while others have been reduced to silhouettes.
Fordjour’s image holds no one person or group responsible for the violence, even as it speaks to loss and abuse of power. Painted brightly in his signature graphic style, the work points to possibilities of a future civic movement or celebration. Derek Fordjour first made Half Mast as a painting; here, in his first solo museum exhibition, it is presented as a public art installation in the form of a large vinyl print, located outdoors at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, across the street ands down one block from the Whitney Museum, and directly across from the end of the High Line.