JAY GAKSILL, MARIA CALANDRA, ERIK DEN BREEJEN
February 16 to March 24, 2019
Ampersand is pleased to present Em Dash, an exhibition featuring Jay Gaskill, Maria Calandra and Erik den Breejen. Like the em dash itself—a simple linear mark that can substitute for commas, colons or parentheses—the featured works by each artist can be classified as painting, drawing or some unnamed hybrid depending on the framework that each viewer uses to define those categories. Maria Calandra’s use of liquid graphite on panel, for instance, can read as both drawing or painting depending on where you focus your eye. Its use, she emphasizes, allows her to channel a stream of consciousness that pulls from both the real and imagined. “The paintings start off as places I’ve hiked, but I hope to manifest a new reality that is unseen to the naked eye. Liberating my thoughts and experiences from any boundaries of the rational, I access distorted perspectives that stray from any traditional ideas of landscape.” This ambiguity is akin to the parenthetical nature of the em dash. The clause contained within or after the mark(s) can elucidate, obscure or change our understanding of the words in the sentence as a whole. A sense of the liquid is also at play in Jay Gaskill’s works on yupo, a non-porous paper-like material that creates a markedly different quality than his paintings on raw canvas. The material evokes a feeling of transparency and impermanence that matches the kinetic effect his forms have on the brain. Though intentionally non-referential, his lines, colors and shapes can be evocative of anything the viewer brings to it. “Thoughts are just thoughts,” Gaskill notes, “and you have the option of attaching yourself to them and identifying with them, or not. Abstract forms on a page are just forms, unless the mind engages and pushes them into one meaning or another. My works are mutable, populated with non-specific forms that can reference something lived in the real world. Or they’re just forms, interacting, moving in and out of each other, playing the game.” Erik den Breejen’s paintings maximize a similar emphases on duality and game playing. The viewer can see them as painted words meant to be deciphered, a cognitive approach that asks what the words say and what they mean. Or one can get immersed within his formal experiments with color, shape and dimension, an experience that may be more visceral and transcendental. His regular use of song lyrics—which tend to be loose and difficult to define—underscores an open-ended approach to viewing or “understanding” one of his paintings. His background in playing music, by contrast, emphasizes the formal. “Music,” he says, “especially classical, informs a lot of my recent work in the structuring and harmonies. I think about counterpoint a lot. Also the way Sol Lewitt would devise rules and systems. I’ve become less interested in ideas about my individual taste in color and more concerned with the phenomenological aspects of it, and the surprising results that can occur from running a system with parameters.” Which brings us back to the em dash, a punctuation mark certainly defined by a formal boundary—one that freely contains a fragment of words that either evokes as sense of understanding or triggers a desire for interpretation.
Jay Gaskill lives and works in Portland, Oregon. He received his MFA in painting from Hunter College in New York in 2011. Recent exhibitions include In No Time at One River Gallery in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Maria Calandra lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in painting from Cornell University in 2006. Recent exhibitions of her work include Further at George Gallery in Bushwick, New York and Wall Drawing at Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. She is also well-known for Pencil in the Studio, an ongoing series of daylong studio visits during which she makes drawings and photographs of the space and shares a written account of her experience.
Erik den Breejen lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his MFA in painting from Cornell University in 2006. Recent exhibitions of his work include Song of the Earth at Freight + Volume in New York and Weekend at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami, Florida. He recently completed a permanent large scale mural commissioned by Public Art for Public Schools for PS 24 Q in Flushing, Queens.
Huckleberry Magic, Berkely Hills, California, 2018
Graphite and liquid graphite on panel
9 x 12 in.
Dark Empire, 2018
Acyrlic on Yupo
12 1/2 x 11 in.
Fern Canyon, Redwood National Park, California 2, 2018
Graphite on panel
12 x 12 in.
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