In an increasingly digital and virtual time, Ingrid Calame’s utilization of a centuries-old technique to celebrate tar, pavement, rubber, steel, and high-octane gasoline is like a breath of exquisitely polluted air.
Introduced by vividly colored paintings of tarred-over pavement cracks, the centerpiece of Ingrid Calame’s inventive and absorbing show “Tracks” at James Cohan Gallery is a four-wall multicolored wrap-around drawing of tire tracks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the legendary “Brickyard” where the Indy 500 is run every Memorial Day (installation image above). Employing the “pounce” technique of pushing pigment through perforated templates – which dates back to the Renaissance – she layers one skid pattern atop another. Her assiduous focus on process, she suggests, replicates the physical world not just as we see it but as we experience and interact with it. And indeed, zoning in on the spontaneous irregularities that arise when the rubber meets the road, one gets a tactile feel for both the pavement in situ and the artist’s fascination with it.
Although her interest in the Brickyard clearly predates the publication of Rachel Kushner’s justly celebrated book The Flamethrowers, Calame’s work coalesces nicely with its protagonist, a fierce young performance artist who photographs the tracks of the supercharged motorcycle she races on the Bonneville Salt Flats as part of her 1970s art practice. And that era’s sensibility suits Calame. Another large wall drawing comprises traced stencil notations used in a warehouse to identify rolls of steel. Recording all the distorting imperfections caused by years of the movement of clumsy machinery, they have a surprisingly haunting and elegiac quality. Calame’s work seems to celebrate the part of America that began rusting forty years ago but keeps hanging on, if barely.
BONUS VIDEO: In the following video, Calame talks about her work and reveals her painstaking process.
“Ingrid Calame: Tracks,” James Cohan Gallery, Chelsea, New York, NY. through February 8, 2014.
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