May 23, 2022

The Fourthny

Art is beauty

“Do We Still Recognize Ourselves?”

5 min read
“Do We Still Recognize Ourselves?”


Squeak Carnwath is an archivist of the overheard, the snippet, and the little-recognised fact, and her operates combine images and textual content. A studio artist, she defines portray as a rectilinear aircraft, a body and pores and skin that is open and vulnerable to every assortment of function, just about every sort of contemplating and experience, as lengthy as she can render it in her decided on medium. This perception in paint is vital to her function. 

Conceived by the artist as “our room,” the image airplane is equipped to receive and report all sorts of information. By turning products like a poster for a lost pet dog in her Oakland community or a thing she read on the radio into paint, Carnwath defines the painting’s surface area as a wall on which she engages with collective and non-public memory, as perfectly as depicts illustrations or photos from her growing lexicon of motifs: sinking ships, tree trunks, LP data, and Etruscan heads derived from Fayum funeral portraits. 

In many of these motifs, a single may well perception Carnwath’s awareness of time’s passage as an irreversible procedure and historical past as an infinitely repeatable one, which is just one source of the anger, grief, and despair expressed in her art. Most likely mainly because the system of turning anything into paint enables her to ruminate on it, I never really feel that she is possibly hectoring viewers or suggesting that she on your own can practical experience this certain agony. 

In her exhibition Sample Language at Jane Lombard Gallery (April 29 – June 4, 2022), Carnwath’s openness to the globe, from quick circumstance to nationwide history and globe situations, is leavened by her darkish feeling of humor. In “Don’t Mess” (2022), she reorients an define of Florida and writes within it: “Sideways/ Florida/ seems like a gun.” In other places in the portray she asks: “You wanna have a person manage your physique?” and “Do we continue to recognize ourselves?” and beneath it, “this location?” 

Squeak Carnwath, “Home” (2020), oil and alkyd on canvas about panel, 50 x 50 inches

The latter two concerns and their proximity to just about every other grow the painting over and above topical issues, and question a future viewer whether or not they “still recognize” themselves and “this position.” We know that the globe is going to change but we never know what it is likely to transform into. The actuality that there is no ensure of what humankind’s legacy will be is explanation sufficient to be in a continual point out of anxiousness, provided the observe document of what preceded us. It is this condition of perturbation, which is consistently currently being impacted by the information, that Carnwath is tapped into. When rooted in recent difficulties — this kind of as women’s rights and, more specifically, abortion — the artist’s problem (“You wanna have an individual handle your human body?”) is sufficiently open up-ended and not directed at a target audience, so I do not envision that it will eliminate its relevance whenever before long.

In the square painting “Home” (2020), big letters rendered in unique colours throughout the floor spell out:

ARE

WE THERE

Yet

In counterpoint to the problem (which viewers are probably to associate with extended childhood outings), we can see what the artist has earlier painted, some of it now included about. In the upper remaining, concerning the “A” and “R,” is a crown and beneath it an eye. Drips of salmon-coloured paint partially address the eye. Our consideration shifts in between the huge letters of the dominant concern and the motifs and thoughts we are apt to inquire ourselves: What does “Home” mean? How has that phrase come to be described in today’s modern society? How will it be described in the upcoming?

Seeking at “Home” and the other functions in the exhibition, Carnwath looks to find her content material on a continuum that features the past even as it appears to be to the upcoming. Her engagement with every day lifetime, heritage, and social problems is expansive, fairly than reductive, and out of this maelstrom she makes unsettling connections. In “Don’t Mess,” she has created in pencil-like paint this observation:

The other working day on T.V./the Afghan ambassador, a girl, was speaking about how bad it was that the U.S. experienced abandoned the Afghanistan men and women, specially the gals, and now they weren’t safe and sound or guarded. Obviously she was unaware that The usa cannot shield its have women (or children) and that we are nevertheless 2nd-course citizens. 

Earlier mentioned it is the define of a coat hanger, which ladies (notably individuals with reduced incomes) have utilized to induce miscarriages in advance of abortion was legalized, resulting in numerous fatalities. 

Squeak Carnwath, “Eye Rmbrnt” (2021), oil and alkyd with gold leaf on canvas in excess of panel, 68 x 68 inches

As a person who has been to several of Carnwath’s exhibitions, on both equally the East and West coasts (and contributed an essay to the monograph posted on the situation of her 2009 survey exhibition, Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Standard Item at the Oakland Museum, structured by Karen Tsujimoto) I have come to hope (most likely unfairly) that she will often do some thing new and surprising, this kind of as include a new motif to her lexicon. 

The shock in this exhibition is “Eye Rmbrnt” (2021), an oil and alkyd painting that also includes gold leaf. On a white ground in the heart, surrounded by a trompe l’oeil, gold leaf body, is a blue eye, somewhat off-middle. Beneath the eye, Carnwath has “written” words and phrases such as “see,” “perceiving,” “escort,” “view,” “imagine,” and “think around.” In the meantime, on the floor — which is the shade of poached salmon — she has “drawn” simple eyes, and even easier eyes painted in grey. Over this, we see drips of orange and blue.

The level is evident, even if the artist chooses not to spell it out. In an age when every thing — from the moon landing to the Sandy Hook Elementary University taking pictures — is referred to as into doubt, Carnwath’s worry with viewing carries a deep urgency. Can we see who we are, and what we have turn into? Can we even start out to chat about it?  

Squeak Carnwath: Sample Language continues at Jane Lombard Gallery (58 White Avenue, Tribeca, Manhattan) by way of June 4. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.



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