“Emerging from an Abyss, and reentering it—that is Life, is it not, Dear?
The tie between us is very fine, but a Hair never dissolves“
–Emily Dickinson, c. 1885, 1
The works in this show look towards the utilization of marginalia to map the journey into the self—where the enthusiasm and fantasy of a particular moment in time is subjectively recorded and then as such becomes transcendent in its power as comment. Moments, gestures, landscapes and other physical experiences, scrupulously attended to, recall the work of Walden, Emerson, and Thoreau, in that they attest to the abandonment of the traditional “rules” of perception, even to the cogency of the self within an altering system or set of rules.
During this journey into the world and into the self, fancy2 becomes magnified. The minor, the small, the contingent comes to the forefront. Notes and sketches with their attention to the outwardly commonplace question the whole notion of the Masterpiece, with its classically “important” subject. Artists who choose to subvert the subject from the margin are producing from a place with no center, where the subject roams free because it has nothing to overthrow. The power lies in these works’ ability to record affect, transcending discourse by focusing on the self.
Susan Howe, in The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in American literary history, discusses Melville’s Billy Budd’s depiction of personal contingency, occurring simultaneously with a mapping of the self. This duality is also at work in each artist’s exploration. As Howe explains:
lashed in a hammock, hemp around his neck, dragging cables, cordage, without volition under language, in a measure mysteriously woman, Billy drifts fathoms down dreaming…What space to which to extend the arms; at that instant we are all like swimmers…Warbling, warbling. Leaving no verb in their eyes…“3
1 Howe, Susan. The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in American literary history (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1993), 29.
2 An image or representation of something formed in the mind
3 Ibid., 37.
Wallace Berman (1926–1976) was born in Staten Island, New York, and grew up in Los Angeles. He attended but did not graduate from the Jepson Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute, instead immersing himself in the Jazz, Beat, and underground art movements. After having an assemblage sculpture of his censored by the police in a 1957 exhibition at Ferus Gallery, Berman focused on his looseleaf magazine Semina and Verifax collage for much of the rest of his life. Berman died suddenly in a car crash in 1976.
Lee Maida (b. 1983) received her BFA from California College of the Arts and her MFA from Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts (2013) where she was the recipient of the Julia Klein Fellowship for Sculpture. She has exhibited her work at Andrew Edlin, Taxter & Spengeman and Ed. Varie in New York and ACP, Parker Jones and Commonwealth & Council Los Angeles. Maida is currently an artist in residence at Abrons Art Center’s Airspace program.
Joe Zorrilla (b. 1982) received his MFA from California Institute of the Arts (2012). He has shown at M&B Gallery and Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Mount Tremper Arts and West Street Arts in New York. Zorrilla lives and works in Los Angeles.
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