Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which was stolen two years ago, has been found.
The exhibition is a breakthrough for Mertens. In the past, her work seemed to suffer from a separation between concept and object. Here, the concept is fully embodied in the work.
As the Stars Go By is an exhibition of seven stitchings on cotton, all measuring 41x97.5”, long horizontal rectangles of black cotton marked by white and almost-white yellow, blue and brown threads. They hang on the wall directly and show well in the intimate space of the gallery.
Simple aesthetic decisions: white against black, small marks in a large field, abandoning bed-like pedestals on the floor for the wall make for a sensory experience equivalent to the pleasure and awe of looking at a clear night sky full of stars.
By abandoning the bed-pedestals, Mertens has taken her work out of the field of quilts and begun a conversation with painting, daring to converse with painting as an artist stitching. Her work can be seen in the lineage of both Lenore Tawney’s weaving and Agnes Martin’s painting. At the same time, the works’ relationship to the gallery
space and to the wall, expands the possible reach of her work, making it potentially architectural.
The subject of these seven pieces are violent moments in American history, from Columbus’ discovery in 1492 to Baghdad/2003. The repeated concentric circles and half-circles of white in black are dramatic. The Baghdad piece has the thickest stitches and most contrast between figure and ground. The Hiroshima piece has the faintest marks and the most random field. The Martin Luther King piece has the deepest space with all the stars seemingly wheeling around a tiny figural element.
My one question has to do with Mertens’ statement. She says that “ultimately I am simply documenting an impassive natural cycle [the stars] that is oblivious to the violence below.” I wonder. By choosing hand-stitching, an historically female activity that is allied with patience, loyalty, discipline but that also literally knits figure to ground, the artist seems unconsciously, perhaps, to be coming down on the side of the stars being involved in our fate. Mythically speaking, sewing, weaving, knitting were ways women made things happen. As Caesar said to Brutus, our fate is in our stars. As recent astronomers and physicists seem to be saying, although the universe may be expanding, it seems also to be more interwoven. It would be interesting to see how Mertens’ exploration of this view of the stars might further empower her visually eloquent work.
Anna Von Mertens at Jack Hanley Gallery. As the Stars Go By Through Sept. 2.
Overheard while leaving last Friday night’s performance by http://srl.org/shows/sanjose/"> Survival Research Labs at 01/ISEA2006 in San Jose:
“If you see something pointing at you, it’s a good idea to stick a finger in your ears”
True—even if you’re wearing earplugs. The press area where we were standing put us directly in line with the 20-foot Shockwave Cannon—a massive pop gun that makes a pop so loud it practically knocks you over. When this sucker swings around and points at your face, you want to do more than stick fingers in your ears—the urge to duck is also rather strong.
It’s been nearly a decade since Mark Pauline and crew were last permitted to put on a public show in the Bay Area. They were in top form Friday night provoking the sold-out crowd with their bombastic machine carnage. A splendid time was had by all.
Richard Sheehan, 52, a nationally recognized artist and educator, passed away unexpectedly on August 9th, 2006 in Bartlett, New Hampshire while on vacation with his wife, Laura Viehmann, and sons, Andrew 9, and Patrick, 11.
Sheehan was known for his humor, dry wit, integrity and work ethic. After graduating from Boston Latin, Sheehan received a BFA degree from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston in 1975 and a MFA degree from Yale University, School of Art in 1977. A 1979 recipient of a Fellowship Grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, he quickly attracted attention with his romantic plein air paintings abstracted from the bridges and roads of Dorchester, Quincy, Woonsocket, Cumberland and the surrounding urban landscape.
Sheehan began painting outdoors in the dead of winter on a bet in 1977 and fell in love with the rigor and changing light conditions nature offered. He painted the same bridge underpass numerous times over the years, but at different times of the day and seasons, changing to the other side of the street for a different perspective. Sheehan’s bold and decisive handling of paint, eye for color and light often convinced collectors that he was a California artist, a San Francisco Bay Area resident, not a New Englander and Dorchester born native. He moved his studio indoors, took a hiatus from exhibiting to explore new subject matter and integrated parenthood into his active studio practice in 1996.
His paintings are represented in major private, corporate and public collections across the United States. His solo exhibitions at the Alpha Gallery, Boston, MA, Roger Ramsay Gallery, Chicago, IL and Jeremy Stone Gallery, San Francisco, CA were critically acclaimed and reviewed in ARTnews, Art in America, American Artist, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous other periodicals. Sheehan’s paintings have been included in group exhibitions at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Maryland Art Institute, Baltimore, MD; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; The Boston Athaneum, The Bank of Boston, Boston, MA; Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., Allan Stone Gallery and Salander O’Reilly Gallery, New York, NY among others.
Sheehan had been a Visiting Artist and Lecturer at The Vermont Studio School, Harvard University, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, Middlebury College, The Boston Museum School, Brandeis University, Maryland Art Institute, University of California, Davis, California College of Arts, Oakland, San Francisco Art Institute, and others.
The funeral will take place at First Baptist Church, Attleboro, MA, on Monday, August 14th, 2006 at 10 am. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions to the Andrew and Patrick Sheehan “Ticket to Ride” Scholarship Fund, 2 Abbott Run Valley Road, Cumberland, Rhode Island 02864 would be appreciated.
It’s finally here. ZeroOne San Jose & ISEA2006 opened last night and will run through Sunday 8/13. Check stretcher for continued coverage on this important global/art/tech event.