Saturday, May 14
Document is pleased to present Happy Sunny Jade, Elizabeth Atterbury’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. The show includes recent photographs and sculptures that demonstrate her fluid negotiation of two and three dimensions. Meandering between image and object, Atterbury makes reference to cultural and geographical points of origin.
Many of Atterbury’s black-and-white photographs are “abstract”—a paradox for straight photography, which is always tethered to the world. Closer inspection reveals them to be compositions of humble, familiar materials such as cut cardboard and sand. Alternating between areas of light and dark, the cardboard photos produce convincing interplays between flatness and depth. Arrayed horizontally so that their corrugated innards align on the vertical axis, the cardboard strips produce dense grids. “I wanted to create a space that felt infinitely deep,” the artist recalls, “like an endless corridor of mirrors, but at the same time impenetrable, like when a window is removed from a building and filled in with brick.” The Logogram series accentuates these effects by tilting some cardboard bands onto diagonal axes, imagining them as stills from of a stop-motion collage where different cut bands move and arrange and rearrange and settle, constructing a word or phrase.
The wooden and steel sculptures in this exhibition take something like the reverse approach, arranging networks of ambiguous forms that derive from highly specific, lived references. Sunny Side, FL, a group of steel sculptures, painted black, creates in miniature an imaginary sculpture park from the artist’s hometown. Actual structures and forms, places, people, and ideas are reduced and abstracted into simple, modernist shapes and hieroglyphs: a bull shark, palm trees, the sun rising in the west, the artist’s grandmother or mother – hair down, a tomb, the manicured landscape, the shaped hedges, modern houses, Noguchi’s Intetra, Mist Fountain….physicalized shadows of a place that is perpetually in the sun. Long Life, on the other hand, adapts the design from generic noodle bowls into a continuous loping form that recalls a pre-Colombian architectural design.
Atterbury’s sand photographs yield highly tactile surfaces that serve as backdrops for mark making. In fact, the artist’s three-dimensional objects have produced these marks, yoking her sculpture and photography together. The artist conceives of a mythic scenario for these marks: an “idle ancient” has produced them. This ancient, or ancestor, passes the time, making unconscious marks in the sand – like picking blades of grass. In contrast to this, she adds Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, a kitchen still-life with avocado pits sitting in a glass of water, a reminder for the real world that acts or represents an actual ‘location’ for the other work to exist.
Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; kijidome, Boston; Document, Chicago; 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.