Contributed by Sharon Butler / The promotional email for “Walk the Line,” a fine star-powered group show on view at Platform Project Space through October 17, includes an image of Johnny Cash, whose uptempo break-out hit was called “I Walk the Line.” Recorded in 1956, before he was famous, the song served as a reminder to him to stay faithful to his first wife Vivian (he didn’t). For the exhibition at Platform, the phrase also harks back to its original intent, which was to frame the need to entertain all points of view equally to ensure fairness. Thus, the show presents a variety of line, from chance drips, hesitant brushstrokes, spontaneous calligraphic gestures, and notional timelines to more calculated applications of knotted yarn and extruded builder’s caulk. Also embracing Paul Klee’s idea that “a drawing is a line going for a walk,” curator and gallery director Elizabeth Hazan has assembled a freewheeling yet cohesive show of lively and inventive works.
In Erika Ranee’s paintings, there is a sense that the meshwork of dripped and poured lines leads the process, meandering about the canvas to generate an unexpected narrative. In the diminutive canvas “I Have to Live With Living With You,” the story seems personal, as if she is speaking to an unavoidable reality the line has revealed. Her vivid red feels like blood throbbing through veins and arteries.
Melissa Meyer has long used line in modular, latticed longhand compositions. In the series of framed monotypes presented here, her trademark lively color and light touch build images of fence-like structures that we can see through but can’t seem to breach. The series is named “Chicago,” after a pre-pandemic trip she took to see a painting, but for Meyer, the translation into paint is always about the emotional rather than the visual memory.
Lauriston Avery’s Alien Robot Ghost looks like a mechanical robot or mothership, topped with an all-seeing eye. Wittily crafted out of builders’ caulk on canvas and painted in a monochromatic white, the form consists of thin three-dimensional lines that conjure a playful, fossil-like relief structure. Perhaps it is a view of earth from outer space in the distant future, when humans are seen as a mysterious alien species that left strange imprints on a now-dead planet. The eye-shape at the top conjures old diagram drawing plans of ships used in the barbaric slave trade.
Margaux Ogden also works in whites – warm, cool, and canvas-colored – but by way of very thin shapes of tinted paint, interposing crisp lines of blank canvas where the shapes don’t quite meet. In Curtains (White Fragment 2), the angles and corners point, like trees in a forest, towards the sky. The title could be taken literally as an image of curtains, or as a reiteration of the metaphor for an unhappy end. That’s a bleak reading, to be sure, but in previous work, Ogden’s pale, negative lines and shapes have explored the notion of disappearance.
On a distressed yellow-gold ground, Hiroyuki Hamada uses paint and charcoal to draw what looks like a cross between a machine and a pictograph. His hesitant, constantly evolving line weaves in and out of sturdy black and white shapes, conveying a compelling combination of confidence and doubt, which seems to be the crux of his story.
In Michelle Segre’s show-stopping piece Substantial Stringata, which hangs from the ceiling, a paisley tear-drop shape has been crisscrossed with loosely woven string and yarn. Items like a painted saw, a propeller, and a plastic umbrella handle are embedded in the string as if caught in a spider’s web. The shape recalls a painter’s traditional wooden palette, wittily updated for the post-readymade era. Segre has used weaving in her work for years, and she is particularly fond of the transparency and instability created by deliberately sloppy – dare I say casualist – craft technique. “Stringata” is Italian for the type of women’s shoe that combines a wedge heel with an elegant lace-up front. The shoes are self-consciously clunky but ineffably sexy – qualities that might sum up Segre’s entire oeuvre.
Franklin Evans is known for making erudite installations, arranging a plethora of images and other source materials in geometric formations punctuated by colorful tape. His site-specific presentation at Platform, paired down to a linear timeline of sorts, includes images and text from 2020–21 – his pandemic experience. Evans grasps that only time is truly linear, and it appears to be unstoppable. His installation format reminds me of my days as a magazine designer going on press-checks, when the four-color pages were shooting out of the loud, fast-moving presses at daunting speed.
Doubt all you want, Evans seems to suggest, but, to invoke Chaucer, time and tide wait for no man. Johnny Cash, known for his driving uptempo chord progressions, would no doubt have echoed the sentiment.
“Walk the Line” Platform Project Space, 20 Jay Street, #319, Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY. Through October 17, 2021.