Contributed by Sharon Butler / In New York City, during the lockdown of 2020, my neighbors disappeared. Some left town, others stayed in their apartments for weeks on end. “Home Sweet,” a group show on view at Frosch & Co through January 16, conjures those early pandemic days, when many of us made modest home-bound work that ruminated on our diminished circumstances and involuntary domesticity.
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At night, buildings once bustling with activity went largely dark. For many artists, the kitchen table suddenly became a studio. In my apartment, as my husband finished writing his book in the living room, I spent most of my time working in a folding chair that I had set up in a sliver of space between the bed and the window that I began calling “the porch.” Leslie Kerby’s series of delicate drawings on velum, based on images she asked friends to send of their “happy place,” remind me of weeks spent there.
Painter Heather Morgan offers small-scale paintings of food. In an especially evocative one, a pomegranate sliced in half shares a plate with the knife that cut it. The image speaks of endless food preparation, but the act of slicing a piece fruit into two can also be read as a lonely plea for company. Is the knife a friend or foe? These are the kinds of thoughts that ran through my mind during lockdown. Julia Kuhl cleverly records some of her thoughts in wobbly watercolor paintings of plaid fabrics incorporating enigmatic snippets of hand-drawn typography such as WE ARE ALL HAPPY HERE and I FORGOT WHAT YOU WANTED – sometimes in upper-case sans serif, other times in lower-case serif and so forth. Because the text is so small within the picture plane, it has the effect of a whisper, or something the artist might have read, inadvertently slipping out of her mind.
On a more overtly humorous note, Jeanne Verdoux’s bed-size drawings and little ceramics look like animated characters in a Walt Disney film. In the window, a coffee cup, painted with Delftware blue, grows three long legs. One of the large-scale drawings, made on craft paper that covers new mattresses, features a vase, drawn like a female figure. Against the embossed pattern from the quilted mattress, the vase, with arms overhead, appears to be exercising under a dark cloud in the rain. Solitude can precipitate loopy fantasies.
Patricia Satterlee seems intent on taking the food-prep situation out of the kitchen. On dish-towel sized canvases, Satterlee presents a series of pie paintings, visually reminiscent of some of Paul Klee‘s whimsical drawings, that take pies away from warm domesticity and turn them into existential data. Some are unequally divided, but most seem to have seven equal slices rather than the traditional eight. In this scenario, fewer get more.
During lockdown, many of us went to places where no one was watching, and for some, strange things may or may not have happened. This pensive but hardly forlorn show reflects how artists distill creativity from isolation – and reminds us that we may have to do so again.
“Home Sweet: Leslie Kerby, Julia Kuhl, Heather Morgan, Patricia Satterlee, and Jeanne Verdoux,” Frosch & Co., 34 E. Broadway, LES, New York, NY. Reopens January 5 through January 16, 2022.