Ann Chamberlain has an installation in the high-ceilinged backroom of the gallery. More abstract than some of her recent public art, this installation is composed of sculptural plaster casts of crinkled paper, pushpins and red cord.
The small organic white plaster shapes are loosely dispersed across the field of the gallery walls. Held in front of these island-like shapes by metal pins, the red cord forms a taut grid of geometric shapes. The installation resembles a three-dimensional white monochrome, certainly more organic than Kazimir Malevich’s Architektons and much less authoritarian but nonetheless in that tradition.
The overlaid geometric grid of red cord extends in places deep into the space of the room implicating the observer and turns the monochrome into a three-dimensional map of drifting islands marked by the rational lines of longitude and latitude. These lines are pulled out of vertical and horizontal alignment by metal pins that become nodes of energy, communication and connection.
Chamberlain has been involved with natural processes in her work as well as with grids for some time. Here, abstraction lends both greater materiality and greater evocativeness. Is this an image of the Arctic ice melting and drifting apart, and does this grid allude to technology in a hopeful or in a fearful sense. The gallery lights bouncing off the deep red cords turn the back white wall a reddish hue.
Chamberlain is also showing two site-specific drawings, one of graphite directly drawn on the wall. Her drawing, in counterpoint to the conceptual public work of her installation, is quite intimate. Perhaps one hundred parallel lines become the record of a heartbeat or of a trembling hand.
Agnes Martin, meaningfully, drew parallel lines in graphite on canvas with almost absolute control for years. One would hope to see Chamberlain do more of her own lined works directly on the wall in her trembling hand.
Ann Chamberlain at Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco through September 30.
Scott McLemee offers a thought provoking book review of Walter Benn Michael’s new book The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. A sample of Michael’s thesis: “The commitment to diversity has turned liberalism into a program for making rich people of different skin colors and sexual orientations more ‘comfortable’ while leaving intact the thing that makes them the most comfortable of all: their wealth.”
Liam Gillick’s piece in Artforum about Chris Gilbert’s resignation from the Berkeley Art Museum in part represents Gilbert’s position as one which recognizes that the Deleuzian mode of “trying to create concepts with fine articulations, extremely differentiated concepts to escape gross dualisms” is increasingly ineffective in a time of gross dualisms.
A recent example of the latter comes to mind: the spectacle of the executive branch of government of the United States (“the greatest country in the free world”) attempting to redefine torture as defined by the Geneva Conventions. As reported today on Democracy Now, the opposition to this redefinition of torture most articulated in the media is the “Republican rebellion” of McCain, Graham and Warner, which does nothing to ameliorate the complete ditching of habeas corpus in both pieces of legislation, habeas corpus being a right enjoyed in the US since its inception and in England since the 12th century. Pile on the gross dualisms.
The outrageous silent attempt to negate this most important right to a fair trial has gone largely unmentioned by the media, in a gross violation of the responsibility of the press to pursue the interests of the public at large, as well as to report important news stories. The abdication of the responsibility to question the unethical actions of government is an additional gross dualism when contrasted with the white out of corporate and consumer culture taking the place of news and relevant debate in the mass media. My piece published in NYFA Current addressed the relationship between the prevalence of “balanced journalism” in the US and a concept of “curatorial objectivity”, and how this relates to both the news we consume and the Berkeley Art Museum incident. Gilbert’s act may continue to cause reflection and inspire debate in the “art subculture” as long as these social and political bipolar disjunctions continue to become manifest in our society.