Either/Or/Both explores the poetics of relationships and correspondence through painting, drawing and text based work that troubles the boundaries between the intuitive and the systematic by making do within a set of givens and the possibilities in them.
Painters Hans Peter Sundquist and Samantha Bittman both work on woven patterned fabrics, Sundquist on found materials and Bittman on hand woven (by the artist) textiles. Sundquist layers his own colors and patterns onto the calculated surface of the manufactured materials; Bittman disrupts the woven patterns she creates through working back into the cloth with acrylic paint. Michael Milano’s drawings are patterns produced from exhausting all possibilities within a set of constraints. Those final drawings recall weaving drafts, which Milano further translates into sound work. These abstract works are partnered with text-based works by Casey Droege and Stephanie Brooks, artists who frequently mine the emotional territory of love and relationships in a struggle to make objective the often destabilizing world of sentiment. Both artists make form from the formless world of feeling, attempting through reductive acts of editing and enclosure to clarify territory that ultimately will remain untidy.
Sundquist’s work attempts perfection through masking, the even layering of sprayed paint and seemingly determined patterns, but his own subjectivity is betrayed by a lack of regimentation and subtle “mistakes.” Fashion, taste and haberdashery are all evident in Sundquist’s choice of men’s suiting materials as substrates, with his own interventions acting as marks of individuality within prescribed cultural forms. Bittman’s paintings begin with her hand-weaving a specific 2-color pattern that becomes the basis for her paintings. Working back into the cloth with the identical colors in acrylic paint, Bittman creates paintings that level the usual dichotomies between art and craft, objective and subjective, determined and intuitive. The weavings themselves require a system for their completion and Bittman’s interventions although systematic and known to the artist, appear more mysterious and intuitive. Milano’s drawings work out small “t” truths in his exhaustion of sets. By working out every possibility Milano explores questions of determinism and free will, a theme that permeates the exhibition in the posing of tensions between predictability and chaos or the question of what is subjective and intuitive versus objective and systematic.
threewalls summer resident Casey Droege studies relationships through distilling them into text-based works comprised of timelines, lists and singular objects. The results are attempts at the organization of the intangible space and time of emotional experience into pragmatic and detached data. Droege’s work enters into conversation with Chicago artist Stephanie Brooks, whose text-based works render ordinary affect impersonal through minimal form. In Hard Feelings: Stephanie Brooks, Laura Berlant describes this as “cool form and hot text” that “interferes with emotion in the service of a critical anti-sentimentality.” The interference (or containment, remixing or fermenting) of emotion that both artists provide, throws a spanner in the works – an interference shared by Sundquist, Bittman and Milano.
Either/Or/Both is an attempt at dispassion, but rather than overtly reveal the messy stuff, it wonders about the human inclination and struggle to mediate the subjective, the body, the emotional, the intuitive through the invention of predictable systems.
The inevitability of mistakes, glitches, and fallibility is present in all of these works, posed against the predictability – inherited or perhaps desired – that comes with predetermined, established or cultivated forms.