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In The Shadows: Contemporary Artists and Obsessive Memory

Nov. 20–Dec. 12, 2014

Monroe-Brown Gallery


Don Desmett, curator

Dr. Oliver Sacks, in a recent essay for the New York Review stated about memory and memory systems; "Indifference to (memory) source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge. Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but, from the intercourse of many minds." In the Shadows: Contemporary Artists and Obsessive Memory explores ways in which the artists view/twist and use the concepts of individual and shared memories in their art.

Levent Tuncer paints from the malleable parameters of a Proustian space, between sleep and awake. Levent's recent work reflects this by working with a particular 15th century Iranian drawing. He looks beyond the formal rules of the drawing to his inner psyche, from which his paintings are conjured. Past and present are accessed intuitively, not only presented as a cross cultural DNA of imagery but made into an epic visual state of history/memory that is real and fiction.

Dan Crews is interested in the accumulation and repetition of imagery. He 'finds' his images through a process of densely overlapping his drawings and other found imagery. The image is cut out and sprayed with acrylic color by airbrush. This process distances the hand of the artist, making the viewer look twice at the line drawing to figure how it was made. The color and imagery are reused several times in these paintings. This asks the viewer to recall an image or color in a different spatial situation from the one presented in Crews' paintings.

The concept of home—whether personal, geographical, national, spiritual, or familial—resonates throughout Zarina Hashmi's work. The lines that define her spaces are never anonymous; on the contrary, they are handcrafted and calligraphic. Although it appears in different guises throughout her oeuvre, her distinctive sense of line is the unifying element of her compositions, like an umbilical cord that ties her to this world regardless of where she is.

Armita Raafat performs an archeology of memory in evocative mixed-media installations that draw on architectural motifs from Iran, the country of her familial roots. Born in Chicago, she moved with her family to Iran in 1980 when she was four, then returned to the U.S. in 2003. The Iran-Iraq War, which she witnessed while growing up, serves as an important backdrop to the artist's multilayered works, in which personal and collective memory intertwine.

Leonardo Drew creates installations and multiples within a series incorporating both manipulated and found materials such as paper, wood, tree branches and roots, rust and mud. These materials are often stacked on top of one another, arranged in gradations of length or shape, endowing the sculpture itself with contrasting qualities of rigorous organization and organic chaos or proliferation, like the artist's memory of past personal experiences or even his own past works of art.

John L. Moore continues to elaborate on his theme of mirrors and water in his recent paintings. Moore is interested in modernism and popular culture although his work is less mediated and refined. Moore's canvases contain enigmatic ovoid shapes he calls mirrors, floating on the surface as if on water. However, they are blank, reflecting whatever the viewer might bring to them. These mirrors can also be read as eyes or openings into the painting, holes in the fabric of illusion, personal and impersonal witnesses, implicating perception and events: how we see, what we see, if we see. They also have the look of curtains that divide the fictive from the real.

Artur Zmijewski's work is nothing if not provocative – to both his subjects and the audience. With scant concern for complacent liberal ethics, the Polish artist often devises button-pushing behavioural experiments. In his reality TV-style documentaries, opposing political groups have been set at each other's throats, people play tag nude in a gas chamber, an old man has his faded concentration camp number re-tattooed, volunteers role-play prisoners and their guards until the situation becomes horribly authentic. People and power structures are stripped (sometimes literally) back to their essence, exposing the nasty, fundamental problems that haunt mankind.