Curated by Pia Singh
With work by: Yani Aviles, Ashley Gillanders, Rosemary Holliday Hall, SaraNoa Mark, Galen-Odell Smedley
The evolution of natural forms and the evolution of human perception have coincided to produce the phenomenon of a potential recognition: what is and what we can see sometimes meet at a point of affirmation. This point, this affirmation, is two-faced: what has been seen is recognized and affirmed, and at the same time the seer is affirmed by what he sees.
John Berger, 2016
It’s hard to determine where it begins. A flight of planes in a room, or the formations in fluid or is from petrified earth? Surface Tension is an invitation to experience an archive of internal landscapes at a time when access to our external world is in refrain. These landscapes, expressed by Ashley Gillanders, Rosemary Holliday Hall, Yani Aviles, SaraNoa Mark, and Galen Odell-Smedley, are composed of organic continuity: of fractured sound that build in harmonic intervals, of rocks carved by whispers at the edge of a lake, of lyrics from a song that congeal into generations of oppressive horror, and of light that bends and liquifies technologies of perceived time. Each of the site specific works hold a surface that stretches across the expanse of the gallery. It is a composition that is able to transcend the world in which we, to some degree, find ourselves trapped. It is within this sticky cohesiveness, an entanglement between material and conceptual elements, that five artists bracket and hold each other while inviting us to embrace a future that can transcend our bodily relation to the world around us.
Galen Odell-Smedley’s ‘en-’ is a result of his research on containers built for ephemeral experiences over the last two years. Odell-Smedley leads the eye through the ear, presenting a series of fractured ceramic containers encased in their skins. Once cast to hold a constellation of musical pitches, they are released from their former lives, emitting notes that spatialize information once held within, into a multitude of additional directions. Each note, pitch and timbre moves the observer (who is also the listener) as a point between sources. Non language communication moves the viewer within the installation. The sounds emitted from each sculpture resemble an instrumentation, a granular synthesis of visual and auditory cues that decompose in the totality of the whole. The ecology of knowledge and interconnection between human and non-human or material and immaterial worlds meet in ‘en-’. An added element of tonal positioning in the installation opens up new possibilities how we perceive formal sculpture while the gallery becomes endowed with an additional parameter for thinking about installation and composition, in relation to exhibition making.
‘Carved Conversations’ by SaraNoa Mark, is a multitude of interior landscapes carved into an enigmatic sculptural piece. Words from conversations between friends and community members move the artists hand through stone and pieces of asphalt found by the artist at Chicago’s Promontory Point. It is a collaborative piece between the community, the artist and the lake. Inscribed rocks shaped by the churning and turning of the lake listen, speak and read parts of an oral history project built by Hyde Park native, DD Klionsky, who befriended Mark by the south side of the Point. Mark’s interest in stone carving as one of the first forms of communication and means of marking place traveled the artist to Turkey on a Fulbright fellowship. At the beginning of the pandemic, their travels were cut short, but not before they had the opportunity to study the living rock monuments in Anatolia. Returning to Chicago, Mark was drawn to creating place-based, collaborative and locally specific work. While centering themselves in the midst of the pandemic through the act of swimming, they formed a small but strong community of swimmers from varying walks of life. Their conversations as a community grew, interspersed by Mark collecting and individually transporting each rock and fragment, replete with detail, back in their studio. Like talismans for the artist's psyche, the artist carved each rock through the process of deep listening, conversing and collecting stories in oft unspoken words. Conversational mannerisms, ‘umm’s’, ‘ah’s’ and sudden pauses reified within the piece, juxtaposing motifs of empathy, practical living, and survival. Two years since their carved paper clay series shown at Chicago Artists Coalition, Mark is interested in the synchronicity between historical, land based, collaborative, community-driven and place sensitive work, and the work of the contemporary artist.
Systems of colonization, patriarchy, and structures of the nation state are questioned in Yani Aviles’s ‘Acknowledgements, 2020’. Aviles’s research on the hegemonic construction of personal history in relation to the narratives of nation-building, point to the cycles of time and how they continue to propagate cycles of trauma and pain. The piece ‘Loophole’ extends the membrane of the exhibition into the digital realm, where Aviles uses a zero-timeline and audio piece to convey intergenerational discord in relation to the history of systemic violence that led to the creation of the idea of freedom in America. The historic, blatant disregard for Indigenous knowledge and practice forces us to beg the question - What does freedom truly mean in the land of the unfree? The artist strives to connect history to the remembrance of ancestors underlining contesting histories from contesting standpoints that ‘cancel’ each other out.