Ten people can barely fit into Grizzly Grizzly under the best of circumstances. But this month, the space is seriously reduced by an installation of hanging scrolls forming a stagey backdrop with wings.
For some of us squeezed into the gallery a week ago Sunday for a talk, the experience was similar to sitting in the “view obstructed” seats at the Academy of Music. (Not me; I sat in the one and only chair).
We were there for Grizzly Grizzly’s first ever artists’ talk for a show in their space.
The show, Duett, includes work by two artists, both of whom use photography. Matt Giel (hard G) is a Philadelphian, and Alanna Lawley (second a in Alanna is long), a Brit stationed in Berlin, and they both need pronunciation guides for their names.
Giel first came to our attention in last spring’s University of Delaware MFA show. with a life-sized self-portrait photo draped over a chair, for one thing. And show curator Becky Hunter, on seeing Giel’s work in that same show, thought it would make a good pairing with work by her old school friend Lawley. Hunter, having moved here from England, was a bit homesick and disconnected. So inviting her friend Alanna to show here with Giel seemed like a good personal solution, she confessed in her introductory comments to the talk.
Vox artist Anna Neighbor, who moderated the discussion, wanted to know what frustration with the limits of the 2-D photographic surface led the artists to explore beyond the flat, framed piece of paper. (Pause for a moment with me to add these four presenters to the count of people squeezed into the gallery space).
Giel’s main piece is a rolled-up, 305-foot long horizontal scroll of a seemingly endless seascape photograph, the end taped around the room like a chair rail. The image was made from a commonplace shot of the ocean from the Atlantic City boardwalk, he said. He dragged the exposure process across the length of the scroll in a darkroom during a 7-hour process in an effort to transcend the usual 2D image. He defined the work as a performance piece–starting in the darkroom and ending in the gallery installation.
Alanna’s scrolls hang vertically, using design and architecture magazines as her source material for domestic spaces. But the spaces are anything but domestic. They are chilly yet meant to seduce. Of her blowups, she said that they too are seductive at the same time that they repel the eye with their commercial intent and their confusing, broken up spaces. The images are further broken up by the dot printing process of the original printed pages.
“Where do you put the toothpaste,” Neighbor said, summing up how inhuman Lawley’s “spaces” are. Lawley went on to describe the spaces as “aspirational and ultimately unlivable,” an idea of an ideal home that’s fractured and so slick the images can be dismissed at first glance. There was some discussion about the aspiration qualities of both artists works and how they were the same–perfect home, perfect seascape.
Neighbor then moved on to how they were different. While Lawley’s spaces and scrolls have an untouched quality, emphasized by the high-tech metal bars from which they hang, Giel’s have a strong sense of the artists’ hand manipulating the installation by taping and pinning. Giel’s work, he agreed, was very much about the body and the physical relationship of the work to him and to the audience.
“Some photos don’t exist in the physical world,” said Lawley.
Giel agreed–or not: “You have to experience them.”
I asked Lawley how she got her work here from Berlin and she said her fabulous printer did it all–made the prints, rolled them all up in one package and mailed them here.
This may have been Grizzly’s first talk, but it won’t be it’s last. Another is on tap for Sunday Jan. 22, 3pm, also at the gallery, let by web pro and curator Kelani Nichole. Giel and Hunter will be in attendance and Alanna Lawley, who has returned home to Berlin, will be there via Skype–as part of the preparation and thinking that went into this show, the artists Skyped back and forth. (Kelani used to be artblog’s web guru).