Small actions can trigger tremendous events, acting as foundations for bigger and more powerful moments. Tremble, an exhibition curated by artist Charles Tucker features abstract works by Gianna Commito, Lane Cooper, and Sarah Kabot that play on this idea through painting and sculpture. Trembling can be involuntary or influenced by excitement, anxiety, and frailty. Often people get caught up in mass excitement and find themselves acting outside of their own volition or empowered to act on their true beliefs. The works presented in Tremble can be viewed as engaging movements that ride these waves within our history. Commito’s work taking on architecture and razzle dazzle aesthetics, Kabot’s work tackling issues of our violent past and present, and Cooper’s work encompassing icons of media and celebrity culture that have become increasingly normalized.
Lane Cooper’s paintings are bright and colorful, featuring celebrities that became iconic in the roles they played: Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, Warhol icon Edie Sedgewick, and the Lone Ranger to name a few. Cooper’s work begins to veer into the realm of post-internet, primarily in its aesthetics. This can be pinpointed in references to glitch and static interference, as well as the subject matter of each work evoking the idea of the screen and our interactions with it. With the advent of digital streaming and services like Netflix producing shows we now find ourselves questioning whether or not it’s considered “TV” (a heated debate for some, I’m sure). This dilemma taps into a sense of nostalgia. The subject matter and fragmentation within her compositions speak to the current landscape of advancement but also the longing for “the good old days,” which on the surface seems to be a harmless desire, but has more serious implications.
Sarah Kabot’s work is tangible in its abstraction, which is readily apparent in her plaster pieces. The casts, taken from Civil War monuments in locations such as Cleveland, OH, act like tablets, which adds to their already conceptual heft. Kabot physically interacts and intervenes within these and her other works, removing parts of information and choosing what to present to the viewer in order to question our cultural past and current events. The act of picking and choosing information mirrors the action of people ignoring information that doesn’t “resonate” with them, a process which can be compared to how our social media algorithms work. Kabot’s pieces are produced on and with fragile material, such as thin Japanese paper and the aforementioned plaster. The delicate nature of the materials speaks literally to the delicate nature of the issues she’s working with. Issues of health crises and gun violence are doubted, skirted around, and glossed over despite the severity of these events. A common occurrence in an age where legitimate information is dismissed and favored for a more pleasing personal opinion.
Gianna Commito’s paintings are small in scale but referential of larger structures. Architecture is referenced through the sharp angles and layers visible in the colorful compositions. The use of pattern and color strongly resembles razzle dazzle camouflage, which was used extensively in World War I to hide ships from being detected by radar. Abstract painting isn’t typically expected to carry with it a heavy history, and if it does it’s usually that of the artist’s emotions. Commito’s work, with its use of patterns and visuals of significant reference bring into question the role of art in aiding violent acts, both past and present. The architectural inspiration, along with the heavy connotations of the visual style can lead one to read them in terms of contemporary infrastructure and rising issues of affordable housing and gentrification, which is an act of displacement that is symbolically violent.
On the surface Tremble appears to be a show of straight forward abstract works, but once you go deeper the fact that it’s more slowly reveals itself. Operating in subtle ways, the exhibition speaks to the act of breaking down, whether that’s of material, systems, icons, or even ways of life. The combination of painting and sculpture showcases three different artistic practices that come together to form a dialogue about culture, society and how small changes have lead us to the tremendous moments we’ve experienced. Some of the conclusions I’ve posed above may seem like a stretch, but that speaks to the subtlety of the exhibition. It speaks to the subtlety of ideas, beliefs, and practices that slowly ingrain themselves into the popular consciousness and build until one day they become the norm – an everyday occurrence. And that’s where this exhibition is particularly interesting, it plants seeds that start out small – and perhaps unnoticed – but continue to grow and stay with you just beneath the surface.
Tremble: Gianna Commito, Lane Cooper, and Sarah Kabot is presented by River House Arts and is on view through May 31, 2019. For more information visit http://www.river-house-arts.com/