mirror air error hunger
September 1 - November 5
Gaa Projects Cologne
Gaa Gallery is pleased to present mirror air error hunger, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Wilder Alison. This will be Alison’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and first time showing in Cologne.
Some associations seem to capture our gaze upon our first glance at an object—how they oscillate and embed themselves within our thoughts. Sometimes perception deceives us, leading us to see things that are otherwise invisible. Seeing allows us to discover things that are strangely sublime, hidden from view, or unable to be put into words, allowing us to observe the double that is often obscured within the One. Subjective perception thus plays with us and ruptures the fabric of collective imagination, which is logically trained to see an image as a unified whole. It preserves in the object a puzzling openness, which turns out not to be a deliberate blank, but an enigma particular to the seer and the seen.
These visual interruptions form the subject of painter Wilder Alison’s new work on view. Alison interrogates painting as a twisted, riddled, and mixed endeavor that complicates the ways in which we perceive not only abstraction, but also the construction of a formal composition as something whole. In Alison’s work, that whole is no longer stable, nor is it bound to the dichotomies of viewer and canvas, single panel and expression, or aura and perception. Challenging the multiple ways the human gaze operates, the exhibited paintings evoke a different and queer way of seeing that celebrates iterations which flip the idea of a “single” piece into a debatable subject. What we seem to see in Alison’s work are inaccurate replications of gridded patterns that have been fragmented. Shifts, crossing lines and geometrical forms are set up and reduced to absurdity, while being doubled, cut, or mirrored in a way that seems to demand their repetition.
Presented in diptychs and triptychs that extend the notion of the medium into several panels, Alison’s works question the idea of what a painting should consist of. Moving through the show, the work begins to resemble a labyrinth that teaches us to see cohesive composition as something inextricably tied to curation and the space between art objects. As such, beyond the fabric level, Alison’s work takes up the aesthetics of quilting at the level of space, emphasizing joints, seams, and the varying degrees of absence living between works. What appear to be partial canvases are combined with fragments of colored grids and sewn together with precision, creating rectangles, squares, triangles, and diamond shapes that suddenly are interrupted, or contrasted with centers of wild abstraction. The effects of Alison’s dyeing process are clearly felt here: blotchy edges fade into uncontrolled shades and frayed outlines; concentrated areas of dye leave behind saturated swaths of color on the canvas. Contours of light brown fade into thick straight shades of violet and mauve at the same time as a hyacinth or indigo blue combine opposite a lime green. Across the seam, an intense concentration of red and pink creates a warm, almost wavy bundle of colors contrasted partly by a greyish blue that seems to lead through the painting like a guiding line disappearing somewhere in the realm of the raw (wool) canvas. An intense yellow discreetly reveals but a fleck of itself in one work only to reappear in another with the full intensity of its own possibilities.
What we see in Alison’s work are thus extensions of experiments in alternative painting processes initiated in the 1920s and 1960s—investigations in which Modernism and its descendants sought to transgress the limits of the medium as well as the very notions of “painting” and “color.” Alison’s use of dye neither restricts nor affirms any definitive notion of color or its application, but instead offers a deconstruction of color, presenting a free and playful assembly of hues that are distinct yet without individual definition. This enigmatic quality of how Alison’s work processes the fundamentals of painting is what sets this work apart from the strict postulations regarding the medium posed by former historic movements and theorists in Europe and the US. “Color” in Alison’s work is both “not important and everything“ all at once. It interacts with the canvas - and with the beholder, encouraging the viewer to step back enough to appreciate both a rigorously complex composition of forms and lines and also the fact that what we are taking in both is and is not painting, strictly speaking.
A juxtaposition of looseness and precision thus highlights, contrasts and transgresses the framework of the painting much like the plays with words that go on in literature and psychoanalysis—both disciplines of essential influence for the artist. Across Alison’s works, we have a sensory alphabet of the artist’s invention, one that holds tension and signifies in each panel yet which in dialogue with other panels and works in the room, produces a syntax pieced together by space and concrete form. As such, the show is a book of sorts—or a form of psychoanalytic inquiry into language—in which feelings and thoughts evoked by the interplay of color-signifiers extend our perceptions beyond the barriers of rules and logic. Like in psychoanalysis, the judgement of an over defined, or limited compositional framework is withheld to enable us to get as far as possible with our visual investigation of the paintings without shutting down productive thought. This is the key to enter Alison’s mysterious play of revealing and concealing: Of seeing the presented paintings as abstract fields freed from the conceptions of any pre-conceived imagery; and of understanding the weaving of colors as the initiator of a rich and vivid abstraction that emerges out of an aleatory process that can’t be controlled. A true chance encounter that operationalizes dye as a complex and rich medium capable of producing a dense net of associations and unforeseen forms.
Text Philipp Fernandes do Brito
Edits Monroe Street Schostal
Wilder Alison (b. 1986, Burlington, VT) is an interdisciplinary artist whose recent work includes painting and works on paper. In recent years, Alison has exhibited work with Gordon-Robichaux, Rachel Uffner, Gaa Gallery, FIERMAN, CUE Foundation, 247365, Primetime, and Garden Party Arts, among others. Recent solo shows include A Ripe Blackberry Murmurs to the Wall at FIERMAN, New York, NY, the faucethe drain breach\ a new /ifeat Gaa Gallery, Provincetown, MA, Slit Subjects at White Columns, New York, NY; $PLIT $UBJECT at Marlboro College, Marlboro, VT; and new wools at the Hudson D. Walker Gallery, Provincetown, MA. Alison was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 2016-17 and 2018-19, and has also participated in residencies at Triangle France-Astérides, Lighthouse Works, Fire Island Artist Residency, and Lower East Side Printshop. Alison performs in collaboration with psychoanalyst and musician Monroe Street as N0 ST0NES, with recent engagements at SUBLIMATION Projects, H0L0 NYC, CUE Foundation, and LaKAJE in New York. Alison is currently a fellow at Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and is a graduate of the Bard MFA Painting program.