Tag Archives: Pat Lay

Catalogue Essay Accompanying “Half Human”, a group exhibition at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center

28577909_2018887298125961_962707414635773952_n

Installation shot of “Half Human”, featuring works by (from left to right) Stephanie Hightower, Pat Lay, Laura Dodson and Artemis Alcalay; photo courtesy Nikos Seferiadis

* * *

Few questions are as persistent—or frustrating—than those surrounding the meaning of what it is, exactly, to be human. Given the run of opinions and theories over the span of history, the human has proven a subject prone to perpetual re-definition. Philosophers, politicians and religious leaders have attempted to interpret human nature and, in more than a few cases, codify it–sometimes for salutary purposes, sometimes not. If anything is constant about the “human”, it is inherent unpredictability, a slipperiness of need and ambition.

As we continue into the twenty-first century, how is the world we helped to shape shaping us? Every artist–at least, any artist worth her salt–works in response to the surrounding culture, if in ways that are closer to osmosis than reportage. Historical context doesn’t determine aesthetic worth, but it would be foolhardy to deny its influence. There is no escaping our self-awareness as a species. The artists featured in “Half Human” elaborate upon this predicament in ways that reaffirm its primacy.

The sculptures and assemblages of Pat Lay make a point of how technology is transforming the collective body and mind: her totemic visages combine the mechanical and the iconic, suggesting a dystopia that is less futuristic than we might like to admit. Diyan Achjadi’s works-on-paper, in contrast, encompass the natural world: her kaleidoscopic amalgams of East, West and cultures yet to be imagined offer stages in which myth and magic are allowed a fierce independence.

Achjadi_2.jpg

Diyan Achjadi, Sinking (2018), gouache, ink and graphite on cut Kozuke paper, approximately 60 x 42″; courtesy the artist

* * *

The art of Maria de los Angeles transforms biography–in this case, that of a child born to Mexican immigrants–into a rambunctious brand of agit-prop that takes significant (and surprising) forays into fashion. De Los Angeles looks to German Expressionism for inspiration, as does Marsha Gold Gayer, whose drawings are as nuanced as they are mordant. Working from the live model, Gayer uncovers a discomfiting eroticism within her taxonomies of likeness, body-type and mark-making.

The body–or, rather, its limitations–figures prominently in the photographs and assemblages of Artemis Alcalay. Disassociation is her leitmotif, and Alcalay divines an almost counterintuitive tenacity of spirit within weathered textures and starkly configured compositions. Divination of a different sort marks the photographic tableaux of Laura Dodson, in which the malleability of memory is elaborated upon with ghostly specificity. In Dodson’s art, narrative structures arise from the promiscuous convergence of the documentary and the invented.

The puzzle-like compositions of Stephanie Hightower–schematic overlays of iconographs and panoramic vistas–are rebuses that promise no ready answer. Hightower’s paintings underscore the nature of this exhibition’s thesis, suggesting that an integral component of the human is its ability to not only brook contradiction, but to welcome it. In this way, “Half Human” posits an optimism without which we are not human at all.

© 2017 Mario Naves

The online catalogue for “Half Human” can be found here.

“Half Human” @ The Clemente

Gayer_1.jpg

Marsha Gold Gayer, Philip’s Head and Feet (2010), charcoal and pastel on paper, 11-1/2 x 9″

* * *

I’m pleased to announce “Half Human”, a group exhibition I’ve curated for The Clemente Soto Velez and Cultural and Education Center on The Lower East Side of Manhattan.

“Few questions have proved as persistent—or as frustrating—than those that surround the meaning of what it is, exactly, to be human,” I write in the essay included in the accompanying online catalogue. The artists featured in “Half Human”–Diyan Achjadi, Laura Dodson, Pat Lay, Maria de los Angeles, Artemis Alcalay, Marsha Gold Gayer and Stephanie Hightower–elaborate upon this predicament in ways that reaffirm its primacy.

The opening reception takes place on Saturday, March 3rd, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The exhibition continues until April 6th.

Dynamic Duo

sfl17

Pat Lay, SFL4OVO #17 (2010), collaged digital images on Epson archival paper mounted on archival museum board with MDF and wood backing, 85″ x 60″; courtesy Sideshow Gallery

* * *

What is it with Rich Timperio and duos? Timperio–painter, arts impresario and Williamsburg pioneer–has made a specialty of mounting two-person exhibitions at Sideshow, the gallery he opened in 1999.

(In the interest of full disclosure: Timperio has included my work in the last few editions of Sideshow’s winter group exhibitions.)

Sideshow is a good-sized space, though not as encompassing as some of the hangar-like Chelsea spaces we could name, and decidedly hamish in tone: No attitude at the front desk. On a mission to provide “a stage for unseen work”, Timperio dedicates significant exhibition space to mid-career artists who can’t otherwise get a fair shake in a scene that values blue chip merchandise, youngsters fresh out of art school and not much in-between. Why Timperio has made a habit of pairing artists is anyone’s guess. But you know what? He’s got a knack for it.

Take Sideshow’s current exhibition featuring Theresa Ellerbock and Pat Lay. Their work would seem to have little in common. Ellerbock trades in material nuance: paper and fabric are stitched together in geometric arrangements so gently stated–so fragile, really–they barely qualify as geometry at all. Lay’s totem-like sculptures and digital collages don’t abjure tactility, but, instead, coolly yoke it to a post-Dadaist Futurism: imagine Metropolis as funneled through the age of virtual reality. My initial response upon seeing this mismatched pair was:  What the hell is Timperio thinking?

But first glances lead to second glances and second glances to second thoughts, all of which ultimately revealed deep-seated correspondences–between structure and pattern, between piecemeal construction, compositional intricacy, frontal compositions and technology, both confirmed (Ellerbock’s insistence on the textural integrity of materials) and subverted (Lay’s contriving Persian carpets, or something like them anyway, from reproductions of computer motherboards).

In the end, Ellerbock and Lay bounce off the other in ways that are surprising, enlivening and not a little quirky. Give the ladies a hand. But don’t forget Timperio, who divined commonalities that do both artists proud.

© 2011 Mario Naves