Contributed by Sharon Butler / In the exhibition statement for “Evenso: The Common and Curious,” a two-person exhibition at the Los Angeles Harbor College Fine Arts Gallery featuring Katy Crowe‘s paintings and Coleen Sterritt‘s objects, curator Ron Linden quoted a piece Ben Lerner wrote about Michael Palmer’s poetry for Harper’s Magazine. Back in 2018, when state of world was disturbing but had not become downright dystopic, Lerner considered what it meant for Palmer to make art in troubled times. “Pushing to work against his unmatched fluency, trying to hit an off note given his perfect pitch. For it can be wrong to get song right if, like Palmer, you are suspicious of any glib resolution or false consolation, if you are committed to exploring the contradictions of art making in dark times, if your paradoxical task is to represent what escapes representation.”
Lerner captures a key aspect of the casualist aesthetic that I sought to articulate back in 2010: the notion that getting something pristinely right may simply seem wrong. As I work in the studio these days, the off note still has more meaning for me than perfect pitch. Crowe and Sterritt seem to have a kindred disposition. It isn’t necessarily about technical deskilling or thematic irresoluteness, as it might predominantly have been ten years ago. Both artists have mastery over their materials, and their pieces strike me as fully resolved. What they do reflect, though, is a fact-based narrative that is inherently limited by the world as it is. And it is now profoundly imperfect.
For these artists, a circle is just a circle, a chair seat is just a chair seat. The goal isn’t to be transformative, but to present a set of real circumstances that as such are illuminating. It is as if they are saying, this is what I am witnessing. As Governor Cuomo has said about public policy in the time of coronavirus, first we have to look at the facts, then we can form an opinion. The viewer, if so inclined, can make up her own story if she likes. But the facts on the ground, in their very discordance, are grave enough for rapt attention.
“Evenso: The Common and Curious, with Katy Crowe + Coleen Sterritt,” curated by Ron Linden, TransVagrant, Los Angeles Harbor College Fine Arts Gallery, Summer 2020, online only.
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