Abattoir introduces two New York-based artists to Cleveland with works that individually respond to the gallery space. Jason Murphy and Gwenn Thomas engage color and form to parse the architectural environment—Murphy addressing volume and mass in his sculptures; Thomas creating perceptual nuance in monochromatic photographic works.
Gwenn Thomas exhibited at John Weber Gallery in the 1980s and rose to prominence when photography moved from the periphery to the nexus of contemporary art concerns. Through the exploration of an expansive range of materials and advances in the medium, the photograph becomes both image and object, a site for challenging the art historical status quo of photography as a purely documentary medium. Earlier in her career Thomas made paintings of re-photographed collages that were enlarged and printed onto canvas. The works exhibited here are from an ongoing series, Moments of Place. She uses architectural elements, windows, portals, doors, to make hybrid structures—photo objects-- that exist in a space between sculpture, painting and photography. These works depict a single window and frame, and, in their varied shape and size, underscore how object and image are fused in a single experience as three-dimensional blocks of light-infused color. The soft saturated color of these works stems partially from the photographic material. They are C-prints (chromogenic color). Their natural and unmanipulated color helps create a conversation between outward and interior gazing, while questioning scale, illusion and materiality of the surroundings. As installed in the gallery space, Thomas’ works function indexically as additional site-specific windows in the space, filtering tinted illumination through colored volumes.
Thomas’ presentation includes a wall installation, Standard Candles, a wooden framework attached to the wall, a ‘pane’ accompanied by a luminous painted square of color behind, and a short video; Moments of Place (Alcântara), as the camera moves across the actual window set into a stucco wall in Lisbon. Both works underscore the minimalist lineage of Thomas’ oeuvre.
Gwenn Thomas lives and works in New York. She studied at the Sorbonne, Paris and graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art. She is represented by Exile gallery in Vienna, and by Art Projects International in New York. She has shown at SPACES gallery, Cleveland. Her work is in numerous collections worldwide, including the Progressive collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, Museum Ludwig, Cologne and most recently the Centre Pompidou, in Paris where she is included in the current show, Dust, the plates of the present.
Jason Murphy’s art is inspired by experiences of moving through urban environments, and those responses honed by his native city, Detroit. Growing up in the automotive capital during the fiercest decades of post-industrial economic decline, Murphy extracts materials from that landscape for work that must be understood as an investigation of the effects of late capitalism in the United States. In precarity and gesture, his work aptly reflects an unresolved unease that permeates the current fiscal and sociological landscape. But, when applied to his recent sculptures and paintings, these characteristics offer a sense of serendipitous joy that stems from sweeping gestures inherent in his material. Murphy is judicious in selecting industrial materials that are overlooked and humbly inconsequential--cinder blocks, rebar, moving blankets, shower pan liner—giving him free rein in how he imbues them with new meaning. These materials represent both the possibility of the new, as in selecting from Home Depot sale bins, or of the repurposed detritus of urban ruin—vertical rebar surrounded by concrete rubble in empty lots.
Murphy’s sculpture suggests the forces of movement without being kinetic. How he uses his materials, and how he applies color contributes to this illusion. In the free-standing sculptures, as well as in the wall pieces made from Knoll tabletops, material hangs, bends, perches, surges and anchors the human presence in the shared space. Color appears as dipped or poured over sections of each form, without handwork on the surfaces. His color memories are vivid, redolent of specific places and moods, characterized by the artist as “dry” or “shiny.” Murphy cites his selection of “landlord colors,” those downtrodden hues drawn from strip mall landscapes and junk-strewn front yards. The artist extends his color work with a digital project, Rainbow Gladiators/Color Taxonomy which appears on Instagram and at colortaxonomy.world.
Jason Murphy received his BA from Bennington College and his MFA in painting and printmaking from Columbia University. Before and during art school, from 2007-2018, he co-owned a triple-bottom-line restaurant in Detroit notable for its social justice platform and as a gathering spot for the city’s cultural scene. He has exhibited primarily in Detroit and New York, and was most recently included in the Cranbrook Art Museum’s exhibition, Landlord Colors, organized by curator Laura Mott in 2019. Watch the interview between Laura Mott and Jason Murphy: https://vimeo.com/473539133