The Suburban is pleased to present an exhibition by New York-based artist Donelle Woolford. This will be the artist’s first show at the gallery. Through her work Donelle Woolford investigates myth and the process by which art and literature contribute images, characters and story lines to the public discourse and, through that circulation, become real.
Donelle Woolford’s new paintings focus on Cubism’s obsession with surface tension and multiple points of view. They are influenced not only by her wanting to revisit the synthetic innovations of Picasso and Braque, but also by her exposure over the past few years and her increasing desire to have her paintings-and herself-return the exposure. As psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan wrote: “I am not simply the punctiform located at the point from which perspective is grasped. No doubt, in the depths of my eye, the picture is painted. The picture, certainly, is in my eye. But I, I am in the picture.”
This “deja vu” or eerie familiarity, occurs on many layers in Woolford’s exhibition. For example, Woolford’s collage paintings are assembled from scrap wood, a material that symbolizes feelings of comfort and alienation because it comes from Nature and, since we are part of Nature, symbolizes a disembodiment of ourselves. Woolford’s paintings also resemble Cubism, an art movement whose perceptual innovations still haunt our notions of reality and identity, to the extent that the style itself can have the effect of looking in a mirror that is looking back at us. And then there is Donelle Woolford herself: a conflicted, talented, 32-year-old artist making her way through the world any way she can, all the while enjoying the background privilege of an Ivy League education and the comfort of supportive professional parents.
It is through these plays of interpretation and memory that Donelle Woolford’s story, Rashomon-like, contradicts itself and moves forward.
In honor of Beyond, Dan Graham’s survey exhibition touring the United States that is currently on view at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Donelle Woolford will present an afternoon performance for anyone who might be experiencing Dan Graham “withdrawal.” The performance will take place on Sunday, November 8, at 2:00 pm. Admission is free but seating is extremely limited.
Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome will continue Donelle Woolford’s investigation into her identity and its mutability through multiple portrayals, or selves. The unveiling began at the opening reception for her recent show at Wallspace, New York, where two veteran actors, Jennifer Kidwell and Abigail Ramsay, gave distinct portrayals of Donelle Woolford while performing an improvisational pas de deux. Throughout the reception, each actor followed the other’s eye contact and body language as a series of gestures that determined when the actors should move apart, circle, or change places. The effect on visitors was by turns playful, disorienting, elegant, and jarring. In some instances, the Donelle Woolford you were talking to a second ago was replaced by a Donelle Woolford from across the room. These “long crosses,” designed to mark a dramatic shift from one scene to the next, allowed the actors to inscribe a certain tempo on the duration of the reception while eluding any attempt to assign a fixed identity to the artist.
For Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome, Kidwell and Ramsay will perform a kind of verbal pas de deux, employing the give and take of a dialogue to reflect on various aspects of Donelle’s philosophy and work. As in Long Crosses-where the signals and gestures were predetermined but the actors’ interpretation of them was largely improvised-the dialogue that comprises Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome will attempt to convey these spatial dramas and improvisations in verbal terms. It will be as if the words each actor speaks and hears are being filtered through some kind of Dan Graham sonic device.