Michelle Blade’s work investigates the human condition, specifically curiosity and one’s search for meaning and place within the universe in which they live. Humanity’s practice of ritual, prophecy, and exploration of metaphysics are key components forming the structure of her projects. Cross-disciplinary in nature, her work encompasses painting, sculpture, and social practice to create conditions, events and spaces that engage the audience evoking questions on their collective versus singular experience. Blade has exhibited nationally and internationally at Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco; Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles; Bravin Lee Gallery, New York; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe; Union Gallery, London and V1 Gallery, Copenhagen among others. She has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. She is a 2007 recipient of the Murphy-Cadogan Fellowship, A 2X2 Pro Arts Grant, an Alternative Exposure SOEX Grant, and was a SFMOMA Seca finalist in 2010. Blade lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
MICHELLE BLADE, SHANNON BOOL, HEATHER GOODCHILD, MORGAN WATT
June 29–July 27, 2013
Premised on the concept of thanatophobia, the works in Sunbeams have been brought together for their shared interest in the undetermined. Although defined as a fear of death or dying, the origin of thanatophobia can also be an apprehension or aversion to the unknown. The inability to comprehend what occurs after death can be a source of anxiety for individuals, and those most prone to this specific type of phobia are often highly intelligent and inquisitive, or those who question their own philosophical or religious beliefs. In addition to ritual and spirituality, the works in the exhibition maintain an engagement with craft and labour, adopting lengthy production processes to address a contemporary Western relationship to faith, the afterlife, and end times.
In 366 Days of the Apocalypse (2012), Michelle Blade (Los Angeles) created paintings for an entire year, the impetus for the series being the myths surrounding the 2012 Mayan prophecies. Produced daily, the project created a ritual in which the artist moved towards both the literal end of the work and the proposed end of the world. Elements of romanticism, ritual, and existentialism are present in the work, as Blade conceals her surfaces with ominous hazes and subsumes her figures into transcendent landscapes. Despite its foreboding premise, the work is not intended to act as a warning, but rather an examination of our relationships to rituals, prophecies, and our own sense of mortality.
Everyday life, literature, psychology, and art history are frequently referenced in Shannon Bool’s (Berlin) work, which takes a range of forms including wall paintings, photograms, collage, and sculpture. Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) (2011) is a twenty-foot-long carpet whose pattern is derived from a wall-to-wall floor covering of an Aztec-themed casino from the 1980s. The casino itself is homage to a relic of American Art Deco, the Aztec Hotel, which continues to operate in Monrovia, California. The hotel exemplifies American Art Deco’s appropriation of the geometric patterns and symbols of ancient Mexican civilizations, and Casino Runner complicates this cross-cultural relationship. Hand-woven by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, the carpet alludes to the delirious and sublime experience of entering a casino while simultaneously creating an Eastern interpretation of a Western sensibility.
Since 2009, Heather Goodchild (Toronto) has focused her work on Anna Ward Brouse, an imagined character in a secret society conceived by the artist. Brouse is an amalgamation of several 19th century North American spiritual leaders, and within this constructed narrative Goodchild develops systems, regalia and rituals of Brouse’s visions, using this process to locate meaning within her own desire for spirituality and ritual in a culture lacking religion. In Journey Portrait (2009) and Journey Landscape (2009), Goodchild draws from the rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry, Girl Guides, and childhood games, gathering inspiration from the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell and Alchemical practices. Within a system of symbols and proverbs, the individual rugs outline voyages towards personal fulfillment achieved through sacrifice.
Word play and language figure prominently in the work of Morgan Watt (New York), who arrived at embroidery through his interest in the process of drawing and contemplative, labour intensive practices. Investigating the intersection of drawing and embroidery, Watt became intrigued with medieval tapestries, and his work references methods of communications in the medieval era, in particular battle standards. Works such as Primitive Understanding (2013) relay envisioned conversations amidst the fear and chaos of the battleground. Although the absurdity and humour of these interactions is apparent in the dialogue, anxieties of death and fear are prevalent in the works, with falling arrows alluding to the prospect of death arriving in a violent or abrupt way.