Sally Ross at Fergus McCaffrey

Sally Ross’s carriage-house studio is two blocks from where the gridded street plans of Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant merge. The division is met by an elevated railway and joined on either side by the incongruities which arise as crisp abstractions are lifted into reality. Swelled into place from the germinal years of Brooklyn’s development, these once partially isolated neighborhoods now consume the perimeters of their territory, grafting into each other different periods of frenetic change and development.

These patterns of urbanism reverberate through Ross’s work—large paintings which divide and multiply as blooming networks of idiosyncratic forms. We sense an endurance to space and time recorded in the inevitable incidents of a diverse interaction of materials. Stretching and stitching together canvas with drop-cloth, jute webbing, and patterned fabrics—some portions coated with paint, others left raw—all of which suggest an underlying torrent bottlenecked into traffic. A too-muchness is dealt with, slowed down by the friction of coarse stitches it oozes out through seams of interlocking fields.

The flatness of Ross’s content resists our optical urge to see three-dimensional space, wherever a section may recede atmospherically, drips of paint remind us of its annihilating flatness. We sense a different kind of depth, the depth of an impenetrable ground, with a presence felt through the vibration of internal tension and flux.

Ross’s studio floor is also her palette and original surface from which compositional experiments grow alongside stacks of sorted material. Ross walks over and around her arrangements, testing combinations and orientations before committing to stitch them together. Different circuits recollect our gaze through convergent networks, while subtle impulses and states of mind are mapped as elements transitioning through a landscape with no space to spare.

Original motives may expire or modify to admit new impulses which arise in the course of assembly. Ross does not have to erase or restart, but rather remains oriented in the relentless forward motion of time—mindfully repurposing her activity as a sedimented record of fleeting minutia and sense of past. 

Stitching requires an intimate proximity, where the totality of the overall composition cannot figure. As we step back from close range, tactile forms enclosed by sutures become amalgamated into the simulated forms of paint. By prolonging the compositional assembly an alternative dimension of the psyche is accessed, one that does not dissipate in immediate gestures but rather neutralizes and settles a continuous advancement into bedrock. By allowing the slower pace of stitching to outlast effervescent impulses, Ross evokes a correspondence with the monotonous increments of development that are invisible in the immediacy of our conscious experience.

Joining territories on an endless continuum accounts for both space and time, it directs attention to the process of combining parts with each other to form a whole. The ancient Theseus Paradox raised the question of whether a ship, gradually replaced plank by plank remains the same entity. A similar question is made here without the function of a ship, Ross’s paintings are organized with a disdain for the practical. The absence of instrumental value demonstrates the combined interaction of material as an end in itself and the relation of time with matter. Ross presents the materials and methods of a practical order under an unfiltered lens where all the stages of decay and regeneration are left to be seen. All our relative sense between what is fresh and aged, bright and grey, wet and dry pulsates in the unity of an oscillating tide. Their stitched assembly is stretched outward yet collectively appears compressed—having the constitution of a stone wall while released in disintegrating entropy.

Urban environments represent structures from different eras in simultaneous submission to decay. The planned topography of a city emerges from abstraction into reality, while the patient work of Sally Ross appropriates the once instrumental debris of manufacture back into abstraction, and in doing so, establishes a connection with the patterns of development and dissolution from which we find our place in the larger order of things.

Sally Ross, 'Cumulus' 2017, oil, gesso, enamel, colored pencil, etching ink, and spray paint on canvas, with polyester thread 84"x 144"

Sally Ross, 'Cumulus' 2017, oil, gesso, enamel, colored pencil, etching ink, and spray paint on canvas, with polyester thread 84"x 144"

The interdisciplinary work of Jayoung Yoon

The variety of material and media of Jayoung Yoon’s work is anchored in the singularity of her body. With her own hair as the principle medium, Yoon’s work enshrines our withering condition to an eternal order of spatial dimension.

These enrapturing works are quiet in their intimacy and scale but immutable in their precision, taking claim on both permanence and ephemerality. A temporal relationship which encompasses both a meditative depth in the immediate moment as well as the duration of time encapsulated in an individual hair or in a finished art object. 

While monotony fails to imprint its successive order to our memory, hair archives unyielding growth. The minutia lost in our experience of time is in a sense represented in a single line of hair. Haircuts find a cycle in our calendars, we change our hair with changing fashions, speak of growing old and becoming grey. While its growth is invisible to immediate perception, it is our bodies most apparent representation of time and evanescence.

While assembled with intense concentration, Yoon's two dimensional works emerge effortlessly in ethereal harmony. Individually positioned, a hair becomes a constituent, demanding consideration as a peer in its peer group, collectively evoking a sense of consensus and belonging. Repeating lines represent consecutive moments configured in gradations often of radial symmetry that recycle our attention through its paths while receding atmospherically as if losing hold of one moment to apprehend another.  

Finished works consecrate renewed bodies which transcend human frailty and our fleeting conscious experience. They conform to patterns of least resistance establishing a connection with a higher dominion where the visual subject is not something in space, rather, the subject is space.

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Jayoung Yoon, 'Empty Void 20' 2017, artists hair, acrylic medium on panel, 10" x 10"

Jayoung Yoon, 'Empty Void 20' 2017, artists hair, acrylic medium on panel, 10" x 10"

Garth Weiser at Casey Kaplan

The recent work of Garth Weiser pursues painting as a medium for which there is no substitute—achieving an end exclusive to its properties as tactile matter.

With a duality taking form as an overlay, Weiser’s expressive, gestural underpainting simulates a diaphanous screen. The original brushwork is buried in thick paint, then partially exposed by removing consecutive rows of thin tape lying evenly spaced between its layers, allowing the original efforts to be seen like a moving object behind a fence. The texture of Weiser’s work betrays two-dimensions, calling upon our instinctual impulse to examine surfaces.

Imagine one of our Pleistocene ancestors coming upon the footprints of his next meal. He notices that sand has blown into its depressions and that the dried mud its cast in must have been made from rain just days before. Through unconscious observations, a primitive hunter ‘feels’ his prey’s location as a bodily sensation to be intuitively followed. In a sense, we ‘feel’ and interpret Weiser’s paintings as we once did footprints, as they suggest a direction to painting that is both specific and remote.

Painting holds claim to our acute sensitivity for surfaces. Just as our primitive hunter detects the most subtle indications of his prey, we discern intention and activity in Weiser’s paintings from a saturation of sensory information. Weiser's paintings have a subconscious metaphor, an internal composition, and a diffusion of orientation between the physical and the optical. The unconscious suggestions of our past observations—our inclinations towards particular associations, is present in the unbound impulsivity of Weiser’s underwork yet filtered by the discipline inherent to his process. This disguises effort behind a white noise of uniformity. The immediacy of brushwork is surrendered to gradual realization. We are required to investigate not merely how they are made but also how we understand them as objects in the physical world. In this sense, Weiser encapsulates the paradox of consciousness that is impossible to explain without presupposing it. We are left gazing at the mystery of our own cognition, the moment when we arrest our attention on the intricate nuance of its undulating surface it becomes still, yet as we drift our focus away from local areas it reactivates in a motion of delicate, optical nuance.

Garth Weiser, 'Tap out' 2017, oil on canvas 98" x 79"

Garth Weiser, 'Tap out' 2017, oil on canvas 98" x 79"

Common Denominations: New work by John Duff

John Duff’s studio is embowered with planks of wood propped up along its walls and scattered across its floor, which, in a practical fashion is painted grey. Everything is splashed with the swirling shapes of liquid layered from years of casting in polyurethane. Duff is camouflaged, often wearing a respiratory mask, his clothes accumulating the same dust and resin as the floors and walls.

Rarely do we find wood among Duff's creations, yet he collects it on his way through New York’s Chinatown to his studio on Doyer’s St. Essential to the casting process (his casts are encased with plywood walls), wood and other discarded objects serve as an extension of his source material—an extension of the superfluous patterns of regeneration in the natural world. Debris maintains an environment conducive to invention and improvisation. 

Here finished works stand in sun-lit clarity against their surroundings. Some of our first associations are organic, e.g, cells, molecules, crystals. However, closer than any outward example from nature is the phenomena of our own perceptive and cognitive apparatus that illuminates the patterns and principles of three-dimensional space. A trace of ourselves can be found everywhere since what we apprehend is first reduced to the boundaries of perception.  Our initial associations are based more on conceptual models of microscopic or subatomic worlds rather than the terrestrial scale we experience.

As a result of enormous exclusions, Duff’s recent work distills space to the sphere. The sphere is a reductive conclusion of three-dimensionality—a unit from which three-dimensional form can be translated into a syntax of parts. In lattice formation, multiple spheres consume positive space while carving a negative or inverse definition between each other. In Duff’s work, their presence is inferred as an immaterial field. In a sense, these works are neutralized by a duality of positive and negative space. They are self-contained, inwardly focused, shimmering in numinous equilibrium.  

Manipulating syntax over form, Duff determines his compositions with a maquette arranged from whatever marbles, prayer beads, or plastic pit balls available to glue together. Translating the maquette is a matter of counting and plotting larger spheres onto plywood shaped and enlarged to corresponding dimensions. The function of enlarging as well and numerically plotting resembles a form of digital programming.

Without any section of anatomy privileged above another, Duff's sculptures are uniform, describing substance as much as structure. The structure is articulated in the particularity of its shape, while a sense of substance consumes structure in the close-packing of spheres. The steel rings that punctuate the boundaries of Duff's forms serve a skeletal function in the finished state while also allowing the plastic spheres of the cast to interlock, leaving gaps for liquid polyurethane to circulate during casting. Welded to each steel ring are three two-inch nails that recede into the resin and act as reinforcing rebar. There is no aesthetic reason for this rather tedious detail—it exists out of structural necessity. The hidden virtuosity of Duff's sculptures resembles the inner system of an organism hatched from a shell rather than constructed or carved. As finished forms, they are monuments to his cyclical process of assembly, liquefaction, solidification, and disassembly. Like fossils, we see them as the concluding stage of a recurring narrative.

Duff's work meditates on containing and releasing space, reacquainting us with a sense of continuity we lose from pulling apart and categorizing the world into separate things. By omitting information, the elegance of space becomes more accessible. The metamorphosis of casting in polyurethane exhumes inverse space from a labyrinth of which rigidity cannot figure. While space is often understood as a medium for physical objects to stand in relation with each other, Duff's sculptures reverse this relationship, allowing the physicality of his creations to act as a medium in which the axioms of space become more apparent.

My 2017 study ( 12" x 14" ) of John Duff's 'Conjoined Triangles' 2016, Polyurethane resin and steel, 92" x 36" x 28"

My 2017 study ( 12" x 14" ) of John Duff's 'Conjoined Triangles' 2016, Polyurethane resin and steel, 92" x 36" x 28"