Immersed, installation shot, photo by Mark Menjivar.
When Annette DiMeo Carlozzi curated Immersed at the Linda Pace Foundation, she added lyrical, stream-of-consciousness style descriptions to each of the artworks. Often, when art gets presented, the viewer doesn’t get any hints from the curator; that information is the exhibition itself. Yet Carlozzi shares her reflective process, demonstrating by example for the viewer the quiet associations one makes while looking at art. That voice we hear in our heads, the one that often gets muffled by what we think we should be thinking: Carlozzi reminds us to listen to it.
Even without reading her labels, though, Carlozzi’s thoughtfulness reveals itself on a visual level. I made so many intuitive connections. It reminded me of reading Lila by Marilynn Robinson during Coleen Grissom’s Literary Expeditions class, and picking up on all of Robinson’s hints about character and foreshadowing. Some writers are so gifted, they can make the reader feel smart—that’s how Grissom explains it. In the case of Immersed, the hints relate to the collector’s eye as well as the curator’s art historical connections. Carlozzi presents a nimble, lively array of art, which speaks to Pace’s own curatorial genius. Pace was drawn to art with mystery and strange beauty, art that awakened the magical side of life, and this is the gift it gives the viewer.
In any museum or art space, the art pieces may be speaking to each other, but unless you study art history, you won’t pick up on the dialogue. It’s a specific language that you have to learn. I don’t mean that art isn’t accessible to everyone, just that its meaning deepens and widens once you draw all of the specific references. This process feels like a treasure hunt of intellectual discoveries.
A large titanium cloud hangs to the right of the door, by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, a playful juxtaposition of ideas and material. Clouds are supposed to be light, but here is one that is made of metal. It should be impossibly heavy, but it is suspended by two nearly invisible, lightweight cords (it’s actually fiberglass and a titanium alloy foil). Manglano-Ovalle’s cloud brings the heavens within range via a concretized version of the amorphous sky’s ever-changing compositions. Clouds can reference an entire spectrum of ideas; the ominous thunderhead, the sublime sunset. Or, in cultural/historical terms, there may be, as Holland Carter explains, “nuclear clouds or Constable clouds.”
The cloud’s reflective surface winks at the gleam off of Lynda Benglis’ golden wall sculpture. Carlozzi avoids a predictable installation and hangs the pieces high, low and in between, providing alternative views, as opposed to the standard face-on perspective. It’s an interesting way to deal with the defined parameters of a white cube gallery space.
Linda Benglis’ gold leaf sculpture, Kutumb (1982), looks like paper creased into a fan and then gilded and crumpled. The shape and textures evoke a strong tactile sensation. It’s a beautifully decorative, precious-looking object. Paging through a book of her ouvre on the gallery desk, I was surprised to discover her series of sculpture, because I knew from another context. When studying feminist art history, I encountered her unforgettable 1974 Artforum ad, in which she parodied white male art world fame. Posing fully nude, accessorized only with sunglasses and giant penis, she faces off the insidious favoritism of male artists. Her bold humor spans across decades; along with the Guerrilla Girls, she opted for clever means of demonstrating the under-representation of women artists. I knew her for her activism and had not seen her actual artwork, which speaks to her very point.
I was also drawn to a phenomenal piece by Jim Hodges, a mirror mosaic with thousands of mirrored glass pieces, placed together to create a swirling pattern of tiny reflections. It reminded me of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s work. Farmanfarmaian is an Iranian woman artist, who was featured in the Jameel Prize Exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art in 2013. She learned the technique after visiting a shrine in Iran, where she encountered the mirror mosaics. Inside the shrine, the mosaics reference the sacred. Placed within a spiritual context, they intimate the eternal and the infinite, in opposition to the profane, where they reflect vanity and worldliness.
These pieces are spectacles of craftsmanship. Who cut all of these precarious, sharp pieces of glass so perfectly to fit together? I asked Kelly O’Connor, who serves as the Collection and Exhibitions Officer for the Linda Pace Foundation. O’Connor used to be Pace’s assistant and she shared the backstory with me. After Pace purchased the Hodges mosaic, she had a dream about a mirrored igloo. This dream image became the inspiration for a sculpture, and, when Pace decided to create it, she enlisted O’Connor’s help. When O’Connor researched Hodges’ pieces, she found out that he had done it together with his family. But Hodges’ first mirror mosaic was created when he glued a mirror to a canvas and smashed it with a hammer.
Suzanne Cotter, the curator of Farmanfarmaian’s show at the Guggenheim, Infinite Possibility: Mirror Works and Drawings, explained that Farmanfarmaian utilized a “typical master studio situation,” in which the artist made drawings that were then executed by craftsman.
When O’Connor built the Igloo piece, she got Pace to agree to do it out of mirror acrylic, or else it would have been impossibly heavy.
Thanks to being Pace’s assistant, and learning about the mosaic process, O’Connor has applied this knowledge to her own work. This technique is a prominent and enchanting feature, constituting starbursts, vortexes, launch pads, and yellow-brick-road like pathways. She hand-cuts her designs from found paper, usually old record albums. Then she sets brilliant, sparkling rainbow arrays of paper pieces into her art like tiny tiles. When I wrote about her show at Women and Their Work, I visited her studio where I saw her inventory of albums, nail polish, and the hundreds of hexagonal paper pieces. Now, in a perfect example of art historical referencing, I could trace the magic back to the Hodges piece in Immersed. These constellations of meaning are everywhere when you begin to look.
Night Writing (Tristan and Isolde) (2011), by Teresita Fernandez, embodies the richness of the aesthetic experience intimated by Carlozzi. An image of the night sky, filled with the Northern Lights, rendered in brilliant fuchsia ink, has a mirrored Braille pattern punched through the paper. The pattern is inspired by the music of Wagner’s opera, as referenced by its title. It is both beautiful and puzzling, laden with possible references and connections. Yet these are elusive and fleeting like the aurora borealis itself. Fernandez’s print is a composite of systems of meaning–visual, tactile, even musical. Because the subject is elusive, it mimics the process of thinking and creativity, how and what we choose to express.