‘Peripheries of Narrative’ at Patricia Sweetow Gallery
By Amber Whiteside
Guest curated by artist and California College of the Arts associate professor Kim Anno, Peripheries of Narrative assembles the work of five CCA 2006 MFA graduates – Michele Carlson, Weston Teruya, Susan Chen, Katie Lewis and Jamie Vasta – each of whom engages “craft” or “low-art” materials and techniques to articulate their own respective narrative within a shared contemporary moment.
Carlson takes as her subject a troop of hip-hop heroines who always seem to be in transit, deployed via sailing vessels, airplanes and futuristic crate mechanisms for some important cause. Crisply rendered in black ink on large expanses of white paper, the work is lent texture and dimension through ornate patterning in the fabric of the vessels’ sails, the planes’ banners and the women’s flowing frocks. Often dwarfed by or hidden amid the modes of transport, the women are difficult to locate in the compositions, and their purpose difficult to infer. But because Carlson identifies the subjects as “hip-hop” women, who operate en masse in works with serious titles like After all their days. They didn’t need anyone to tell them where to go. Where? That was for another day, we know these women to be agents of resistance. Stowed away in ships and planes, their short-term tactic seems to be thwarting the missions of oppressors and evildoers with endless rolls of fabric – striped, checked, polka-dotted and paisley textiles that wrinkle, wrap and parachute across the landscape. No doubt there’s more up these women’s billowing sleeves.
Teruya worked as a counselor at a juvenile hall in Los Angeles that was situated on a country club golf course, and takes this provocative pairing of social institutions as the jumping off point for his most recent series of work. Like Carlson, Teruya’s very tight drawings (in ink, collage, spraypaint, gouache and color pencil) pop against large expanses of white paper. Co-mingling symbols and ephemera from the juvenile hall and golf course, Teruya creates an unrecognizable, nonfunctional hybrid space. Trees are wrapped up in chain-link fence and grafted with fragmented stone gargoyle heads. A white raft defects from the country club carrying limp flag markers, squares of sod, and more chain link fencing. Not a single human being appears here, but the contested space continues wrestling with its own identity, and has yet to yield a winner.