Daniel Lefcourt, Ersatz Coherence, 2007, Acrylic on Board
182.9 cm x 243.8 x 30.5 cm (in 8 parts), Courtesy of Sutton Lane
Subject Index brings together seven artists who leverage indirect strategies
against the construction of meaning in semiotic and narrative systems
of language. The desire to communicate is thwarted as these works question
and evade simple reading. The artists use organizational systems such
as grammar and documentation to point indirectly to their subjects. By
subverting clear interpretations, they suggest a critique of our culture’s
emphasis on simple, un-nuanced communication. The frustration of meaning
binds these artists together.
Daniel Lefcourt’s arrangement of blocks of black lines mimics the
graphic convention of page layout design, and stands in as the introductory
text for the exhibition. This ambiguous decoy opens Subject Index with
a clear disavowal of the standard uses and meaning of language. Throughout
the exhibition, Lefcourt’s installations punctuate the exhibition,
underlining the possibility of depicting language without using language.
The visible information acts as an evasive declaration, or non-statement,
which in itself is an indictment of language and our reliance on it.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a series of photographs taken
by Erica Baum in the Frick Museum's Art Reference Library. In this library,
artworks are indexed on cards, and categorized by the subjects they depict.
A Botticelli Venus is catalogued as showing nude figures, shells, and
triumphs. Baum photographs the individual cards of the index, and by using
– or in fact misusing – this system of organization, she creates
associations and connotations unrelated to the originally described works.
With Erica Baum’s photographs, language is laid bare, but despite
appearances, these photographs of words form incomplete pictures of their
subjects. The hidden subject is always hinted at with captivating combinations
of words, which become concrete poems and playful allegories for hidden
referents. Exercising precise control over her images, Nancy de Holl manipulates
every aspect of her compositions. Her works point to our gullibility when
presented with what may seem to be straight documentation. A visual omnivore,
Tom Holmes borrows, splices and propagates his images so that the subject
of his work is confused and hysterical. A composite of text and image,
woven in Nepal by traditional rug workers, forces the viewer to consider
the ping and pong of global culture production and traditional art forms
at the place where kitsch abstraction and contemporary pop collide.
Playing the role of inventor/explorer, Hobza turns the lens onto the museum’s
own very odd and unique collection, and creates a work specifically for
this location. Drawn to a particularly primitive-looking longwave antenna
Hobza is working on a subject she often addresses: codes and the desire
to communicate. In Searching for the Longwave, Hobza’s
attempts to activate the apparatus realize this exhibition’s theme
of frustrated communication. Ellie Ga similarly brings her art practice
off the page and into the empirical world. Ga here presents a new work
relating to her trip aboard a Polar Schooner, where she spent five months
as artist in residence drifting through ice near the North Pole. In Ten
Til Two: 10:10, the recollections of this extreme experience are
translated through a laborious photographic process which mimics the layers
of memory and forgetting. Ga pieces together the complex maps the crew
invented to navigate the expanses of ice in which they drifted. A series
of slides showing the polar landscape dissolves between light and dark,
interspersed with phrases parsed from the crewmembers’ personal
diagrams defining their landscape of expansive ice.
In Marcelline Delbecq’s
video, Close, we follow a low, hand-held camera in a romp around
the over-grown garden and grounds of La Maison Rose in Givérny.
Hinting at anecdotes along a spoken walking tour of the interior of the
manor, the artist-narrator baits her viewers controlling their experience.
Following the frenetic paths of this garden as a course of desire, word
and image disconnect again: The subject is once more dodged. Delbecq’s
elusive maison is described, but never appears on camera.