The Chazan Gallery at Wheeler is pleased to present of rock and air an exhibition featuring the new work by Mary Anne Friel and Leslie Hirst, from November 21st - December 11th, 2019. There will be an opening reception for the artists on November 21, from 5:00 - 8:00. The public is invited.
of rock and air brings together two artists who record experience and actions through the transformation of materials. With complimentary approaches that destabilize, animate and translate time, both artists employ intuitive interventions to reveal natural phenomena. Resonating with the physical presence of humans interacting with the natural world, their work shifts and merges notions of substance and sensation, matter and perception, past and future.
In Eruption, Mary Anne Friel creates a vocabulary for experiencing and expressing phenomena that emerge from below the surface of the earth. Volcanic craters, fumaroles, and fissures from which sulfurous steam, lava, and ash plumes erupt mark the meeting point of the interior and exterior earth, primordial and contemporary time, and the natural and cultural. The work brings Friel — and through her artwork, the viewer — into direct physical encounters at these boundaries.
Friel's compositions evoke a passage of geologic rupture and movement evolving over time. Working on location at volcanic sites, she exposes silver-plated fabric panels to hot, acidic thermal features, capturing the explosive trace of projected minerals, gas, and rock on the textile's reactive surface. Exploiting the unfixed, fluid quality of fabric, Friel collapses the instability inherent in volcanic landscapes into a human scale.
Ash Cloud reimagines and reenacts Pliny the Younger’s experience of being engulfed in volcanic ash during the CE 79 eruption of Vesuvius, recorded in his letter to Tacitus. The residue of volcanic substance that created the image is volatile, its store of mineral energy will continue to react with the silver over time, until, like the arc of falling ash and light described by Pliny, the image darkens to “the black of closed and unlighted rooms.”
Prelude to an Eruption is a series of seismic recordings from Kīlauea*, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Etched into metalized translucent fabric, it transposes underground movement into radiant energy. The work becomes a sensory score of Kīlauea’s volcanic pulse, an imprint of the surrounding ocean’s seismic hum and the daily notational markings of its human observers.
*Seismic records courtesy of Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory and Paul Okubo, Research Geophysicist.
In collaboration with the sky, Leslie Hirst considers how her subjects are shaped by the air. Using shadows, veils, and silhouettes, she exposes the linguistic propositions that separate substance from language. With traditional techniques such as cyanotype printing and book making, along with found objects, her work involves reading not only what is physically present, but also concealed, disguised and implied.
To address semantic uncertainty, Hirst positions the sky as a container as well as a passage from exterior to interior. Her installation Cloudcuckooland is a visual/verbal conversation involving objects and light that flips between matter and word. Borrowing the title from Stuart Chase's seminal 1938 text The Tyranny of Words, Hirst utilizes salvaged industrial windows to frame an inventory of nonverbal objects and propose intangible truths.
The concepts of memory and impermanence unfold in Hirst's artist's book entitled These Things, part of which is on view in the gallery. Working in conjunction with a poem written by Joanna Klink, These Things follows a sequence of objects as they dissolve into the sky and are replaced by the words of Klink's poem (from the suite 14 skies). Early in the book, the sky is introduced through a portal that resembles a volcanic opening but is in fact an image taken from inside the Ardeatine Caves outside of Rome. * The closing line of the poem offers reflection to the objects — real and reproduced — contained in the book: "Things you cannot say."
Adjacent to the book pages in the gallery are cyanotype prints on fabric created as frontispieces for the unique artist's book editions. Hirst uses the unstable, unpredictable behavior of the sky to capture time and to distance certainty. Lying in rest are objects that actively fuse with the fibers, solid and luminous in their presence, but absent and elusive of meaning.
*site of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre in 1944, and home of the Mausoleo Fosse Ardeatine