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Reception: April 19th, 5-8pm

DOCUMENT is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Greg Stimac in gallery 2. The exhibit opens on Friday, April 19th with a reception from 5-8pm and continues through June 1st, 2019.

 

The Surplus of the Tree

A Reflection on Stimac’s Work, as Represented in Amulet

SJ Cowan

A hallmark of the American imagination is its earthy simplicity. It is hard to miss.

 

…Especially when one listens to the songs, or reads the writings, of someone like Woody Guthrie.

Looking around, Woody humbly saw:

Fruit is on the ground, and it looks like the trees have been just too glad to grow it, and give it to you. The tree likes to grow and you like to eat.

 

One is tempted to see his sensibility as a kind of poetic stupidity. And that is right: there is a deliberate slowness of mind, a direct reflection on things that don’t permit much of reasoning. Moreover, in giving oneself over to this temptation, one comes to see the inverted form of intelligence that it makes possible. That is, one becomes open to the tension internal to the stupefaction-before-the-world that Guthrie is able to achieve. The tension involves a lack of rigor in one’s thought and an engaging the world with unhurried, inquiring amazement. Things merely are, and that is wonderful. This sensibility is a profound virtue: a patient austerity—something free of ornament, and relying only on the fundamental rhythms of simple statement. Importantly, however, it is not unique to Guthrie. Rather, it characterizes the broader undercurrent that has ceaselessly pushed American thought forward.

 

It can be seen in works from Emily Dickinson,

The lovely flowers embarrass me

They make me regret I am not a bee–

 

to Thomas Merton;

What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone in the forest at night.

 

Lorine Niedecker

New-sawed

clean-smelling house

sweet cedar pink

fresh tint

I love you

 

and Frank Stanford.

I spent many afternoons

On the shore

Looking at my boat

Despite its strange bareness (or probably: because of it), this mode of expression can rarely contain itself. Guthrie himself admitted that he’d get lost pondering the simplicity of life. “Whole days would go by and I wouldn’t know where they went.” Lost in the slowness of mind, he eventually found that “the world didn’t mean any more than a smear to me if I couldn’t find ways of putting down on somethin’.” Somehow, expressing something about it all allows the simplicity to overflow.

The force of Greg Stimac’s work is seen in the light of its readied embrace of, and participation in, the legacy of America’s profundity-of-imagination, its rich poetic stupidity. And indeed, the work in Amulet is a testament to the way that even the simplest act of transformation of an image or object—a mere folding of a map, or the smoothing of a rifle-stock—that even the most basic act of putting down on somethin’—can suddenly render it otherwise.

Most generally, Stimac’s practice is one of creating, with simple moves applied to familiar subjects, something surprising and unfamiliar. But the work he presents in Amulet offers, in particular, a chance to reflect on the intimate proximity of processes that are typically experienced as foreign to one another. Namely: mundane, everyday thinking and wonder and imagination. In Stimac’s hands, rifle-stocks and landmasses—icons of purely material, modern existence—take on the semblance of something whose nature lies instead in imaginative reflection.

The sculptures and photographic prints most obviously recall the imagery made famous by the Rorschach test. Initially Stimac’s question, like Rorschach’s, appears direct: What do you see?

You look, and you find something…and you also find something else, something more.

No longer a rifle-stock, no longer a map.

But: an elemental creature, or a silhouette, or a mask, or an erotic bodily form.

Yet, unlike Rorschach’s, Stimac’s work is not a test. It merely evokes the idea of a test. In doing so, he encourages viewers to begin drawing connections and between their ways of thinking and seeing. However, his work is not in finding out anything about one’s personality or subconscious life—in fact: it is not about finding out anything determinate at all. Stimac does not aim at any standard, or any terms of assessment. His work dwells in a realm where inkblots and abstract figures are not used as tools of analysis. For Stimac, leaving the form of the test empty is his way of inquiring into something much more nebulous.

What is the process by which we originally come to define and solidify the connections between our patterns of thinking and seeing? Does it involve a story about rationalization and enlightenment? Or do we need a tale of mystery and mythology? With Stimac, it is not clear that the two can ever be separated; or, at least, there is no measure by which the separation could be justified. For him, mythical figures are always around us, populating not just the waters of our dreams, but the air of our waking life as well.

Of course, like any work of art, the viewer must place themselves within the bounds of Stimac’s works if they are to take on significance. But the depth of Stimac’s work is its capacity to call this most basic feature of art forward, and to lay it out on display, to let it sit right there on the surface. Stimac does not confront us with any sort of riddles, or layers of observation and argument. Like the words of Guthrie, Niedecker, and others I’ve mentioned, Stimac’s works just sit there. Yet, that is not to say that his work lives without layers—only that the layers do not belong, immediately and only, to the work itself. They require participation. Reading the work means reading-into it. –Not like a test, but like spark for the imagination.

With remarkable honesty, Stimac exposes the simple wonder: that we must bare ourselves before objects in order to ever begin imagining something about ourselves or our world at all. Here, there is no contradiction in a form’s being more than itself, being multiformal.

Because, for example: the gun is always at the same time a body; and the landmass, a monster. An elemental creature, a whimsical silhouette, a haunting mask, an erotic organ—for Stimac, these can all be names of the same.

At root Stimac’s Amulet means to create a creative experience for others. But to join in, one must, like the work itself, remain open to the act of “just sitting there.” The dynamic of such an activity is deceptively simple. Spending, as Stanford describes, “many afternoons on the shore looking at my boat” may sound like a waste of time. But that is precisely what Stimac is generously inviting us to do. When you look, you find something; and also find something else: an excess that overflows out of simplicity. The cartography of his work is such that it leaves thought without resolution.

Stimac’s work recognizes that the creative power of “poetic stupidity” involves more than just sitting there and putting down on somethin’. It also involves attending to the way the techniques of apparently modest thinking can be deliberately used as a way of becoming sensitive—precisely by way of its simplicity—to the violence inherent to our everyday. If the imagination has the power to place us in a reflective contact with the familiarity of things, then why do we continually leave those things as we find them? Why are the forms of Modern exploitation—the gun, to kill; water and land, to colonize—the forms that seem, almost by necessity, to overshadow Amulet?

Perhaps it is because when we put down on something, and when we just sit there with it, we are afforded the opportunity to be stupefied by our world. Yes, by the depth and beauty of ordinary things. But also by the viciousness that our mundane world entails…

Niedecker, again:

I fear this war

Will be long and painful

and who

pursue

it

 

And Stanford:

it has eyes

like vials of poison

in the back of its head

that is why I looked at it

when I should have really been

tending goats

 

Guthrie rightly saw the surplus of the tree. When he read the tree and read-into it as well—seeing his liking-to-eat reflected in the tree’s liking-to-grow. But he didn’t stop there, at the abundance. He also noticed the way the surplus revealed that there is always “a sign between you and the tree saying: ‘Beware the Mean Dog’s Master’.” And so his devotion to simplicity made him sensitive to the problems saturating the world.

It is in this mood that Stimac works do their work. If we enter into them, we are given a vision of imaginative excess and provocative multiformality. But at the same time we are confronted by the objects that, through history, have been transformed into the tools used by others to shoot up schools and churches, and by masses of land and bodies of water whose mere existence serve as perpetual sites of conflict.

So Guthrie asks, “Fruit is rotting on the ground all around me. Just what in hell has gone wrong here, anyway?”

 

 

 

Elizabeth Atterbury

Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include Kate Werble Gallery, New York; The Portland Museum of Art, Portland; Mrs., Queens; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; kijidome, Boston; Document, Chicago; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Luminary, St Louis; Et al. Etc., San Francisco; Pulaski Park Field House, Chicago; Able Baker Contemporary, Portland; Ida Schmid, Brooklyn; TSA, Brooklyn; Bodega, Philadelphia/New York; KANSAS, New York; and The ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, among others. In the Middle, An Oasis, a monograph of her work, was published by Bodega Press in 2013. She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.

Atterbury’s studio practice is fluid, fluctuating between picture making and object making. Fascinated with the autonomy of the artifact – objects disassociated from their original function and context – Atterbury’s practice considers the distinction or lack thereof between artifact, prop, model and sculpture.  Drawn to materials such as paper and sand, Atterbury constructs ephemeral tableaux specifically for the purpose of transfiguring and recording them. Both her photographs and sculpture build upon a continued interest in display and its visual structures, along with a more recent interest in language, ritual, and abstraction.

Elizabeth Atterbury, 26 Waves, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 22 3/4 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Alone at night, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still life with bowl and mirror, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Anonymous Old Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Another Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Calligraphy Frame, 2018, Maple, acrylic paint, glue, 60 x 40 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, Again (Pool), 2017, Beach sand, glue, MDF, 10 1/2 x 8 x 6 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, The Wall, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Beach Woks (Marks of a Tool II), 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram III, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram II, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram I, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Tomb), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 12 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (The Cut), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 13 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Sunset Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 1/2 x 16 x 2 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Small House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 x 16 3/4 x 14 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Bull Shark), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 2 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Paper Cut / Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 10 x 9 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Noguchi's Intetra, Mist Fountain), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Lawn), 2016, Enamel paint, steel 9 x 9 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Big House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 16 x 18 x 6 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Palms), 2015, Enamel paint, steel, 17 1/2 x 11 x 16 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Relief (China White), 2015, Plywood and paint, 33 x 48 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Moonlight on the river, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Slow Song, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Marks of a tool, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Rake, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Ghost Tracks, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Black Beach, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bones, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterburym Glyphs II, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Glyphs, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Site, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sculpture Park, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bricks, 2013 Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Harry, Henri, Sal, 2013, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Blue Runner Night, 2014, Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Editon of 3

 

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Paul Mpagi Sepuya Mines the Queer
History of the Portrait Studio

What are the conditions for making portrait photography? These days, if you’ve got a phone and a face, you’re all set. Historically, though, taking a portrait meant having a studio. For much of the nineteenth century, the length of a camera’s exposure required sitters to hold their poses for as long as a minute; if they moved, they’d be rendered as a blur. The earliest known portrait (also the first selfie and the first scene staged for the camera) was made in 1840, by Hippolyte Bayard, a Parisian pioneer of the medium, whose rival was Louis Daguerre. Bayard posed as a corpse, in part because the process that he had invented entailed keeping still for twelve minutes. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, he spent the rest of his life shooting buildings.) Daguerreotypes, on the other hand, became wildly popular, and studios proliferated all over the world, from France to Liberia, where Augustus Washington, who was born a free man in New Jersey to a formerly enslaved man and an Asian woman, opened one, in 1853. By the mid-twentieth century, a portrait could be shot in a flash anywhere, but the private realm of the studio retained its allure.

“Model Study (0X5A3973),” 2018.

 

“Darkcloth (_2000142),” 2016.

The historical intimacies of the portrait studio and the agency of a black man behind the camera are among the subjects of the impressive pictures in Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s new show, “The Conditions,” at Team Gallery, through April 13th. The series continues an exploration that the thirty-six-year-old photographer, who is based in L.A., began as an undergrad at N.Y.U., from which he graduated in 2004. His subjects are typically lovely queer men—himself included—who pose alone or together, naked or clothed, in puzzle-like compositions, accompanied by such photo-studio staples as clamps, tripods, and lenses. Black and brown velvet backdrops are draped behind bodies, their lush expanses playing off—and standing in for—dark skin, although the bodies that Sepuya eyes are neither exclusively black nor always male. Mirrors and sliced segments of printed photos are incorporated into the pictures, heightening their visual complexity. Sometimes portions of the figures are cropped out of the frame, leaving hands and arms center stage, unencumbered by bodies. The results can appear so kaleidoscopic that it’s hard to believe that they’re not collages.

All of this fragmentation serves a conceptual purpose and also a compositional one, underscoring the marginalized position that L.G.B.T.Q. figures have occupied for most of art history. Sepuya’s frankly queer eye also unlocks a hidden history of the studio as a safe space for free expression. The social stigma of gay desire in the age before Stonewall may be unimaginable now, but, not so long ago, pictures like “Drop Scene (0X5A8165)”—in which the artist steadies his camera against another man’s naked haunch—were distributed surreptitiously. The modernist fashion photographer George Platt Lynes believed that his most important contribution to art was his male nudes, but they were also a secret that he kept until his death, in 1955. In an interview last year, Sepuya spoke of his interest in “queer modernism” like Lynes’s and said that he hoped that his own work would lead viewers “to think about the structures of photography, portraiture, and of queer sociality in new ways.”

“A Portrait (0X5A6109),” 2017.

 

“A Portrait (0X5A2258),” 2017.

 

What is perhaps the most tender portrait in “The Conditions” is one of the simplest. A beautiful young man is seated, with a dancer’s grace, in front of a black backdrop, in a white shirt and a black skirt, unless it is simply the backdrop behind him wound chicly around his waist. The fabrics merge too seamlessly to discern. The figure, who has pale skin and a curly mop of black hair, coupled with holes in his socks, suggests an urchin straight out of Caravaggio. Like all of Sepuya’s increasingly sophisticated work, the reference unites ideas of identity and mechanics. The Italian painter was not only a master of the homoerotic but an artist whose studio tools likely included a mirror, a lens, and dark fabric—the conditions of a camera obscura.

“Studio (_1000021),” 2018.

 

“A Portrait (0X5A8325),” 2018.

 
Andrea K. Scott is the art editor of Goings On About Town and has profiled the artists Cory Arcangel and Sarah Sze for the magazine.

 


Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s “Darkroom Mirror” (2017) in his show “The Conditions” at Team Gallery.

New York Art Galleries: What to See Right Now

March 28the, 2019| by Martha Schwendener

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Through April 13. Team Gallery, 83 Grand Street, Manhattan; 212-279-9219, teamgal.com

Paul Mpagi Sepuya is experiencing a flush of success right now, and his new show — “The Conditions,” at Team Gallery — demonstrates that it is well deserved. His work appears on the cover of Artforum’s March issue and will be included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial . Mr. Sepuya is not an overnight sensation, however; over a decade of working, exhibiting and returning to art school to study with the great photographer Catherine Opie at the University of California, Los Angeles helped him to arrive at a distinctive and timely amalgam of portraiture and conceptual photography.

Mr. Sepuya’s photographs are like visual puzzles. He appears in many of them, but in fragmented form and usually with a camera in hand. Some of the works show multiple hands holding cameras, suggesting that authorship is always some sort of collaboration. Pushing that out further, you, the viewer are reflected against the dark backdrops in the picture and if you photograph Mr. Sepuya’s works (as I of course did), your hand and camera end up nestled surprisingly amid the gesturing fingers of him and his subjects.

“The Conditions” could refer to lighting, studio setups, or social conditions. Mr. Sepuya’s photographs have often been categorized as “queer” (that is, within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cosmos), but they feel more universal to me: Multifarious shades of melanin are represented, and he has included images of women in this show. And while the history of representing bodies in photography — particularly nude ones — is fraught, Mr. Sepuya charges intrepidly into the mire, offering what feel like new, smart conclusions on how to represent power or vulnerability, as well as the unwavering desire to look at such images. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Full coverage here: Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Press for The Conditions at Team Gallery (March 7-April 13, 2019)

Owner
Aron Gent
aron@documentspace.com
Director
Sibylle Friche
sibylle@documentspace.com
Gallery and Print Studio Assistant
Renata Cruz Lara Guerra
info@documentspace.com

Gallery hours:
Tuesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm

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DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 40 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2011 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US. At this time we do not accept unsolicited submissions.