Opening Friday, March 15th, from 5PM - 8PM
On view through Saturday, April 20th
For her second solo show at Western Exhibitions, DEB SOKOLOW will exhibit a 28-footlong drawing as well as a selection of separate but tangentially-related items inspired by a recent two-month stay at the mountaintop artist residency, Nordisk Kunstnarsenter Dalsåsen, in Norway. The show opens on Friday, March 15 with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm and runs through April 20, 2103.
In Gallery 1, unframed collage drawings, artists books and a three-dimensional floor piece will focus on a variety of seemingly disparate topics: the inner workings of an international art theft organization known as “The Association”, a walk through nature which becomes less pleasant when rock formations begin to resemble the faces of former bosses, unexplained shrouded lumps on the floor, and the secret history of unconventional ingredients, such as troll meat, appearing in Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
In Gallery 2, disparate elements from Gallery 1 will be given context within a much larger story. “All Your Vulnerabilities Will Be Assessed” is a long, panoramic narrative on multiple papers consisting of handwritten texts, erasure marks, blocked out information, photocopies, diagrams and architectural floor plans with flap-like walls protruding from the papers’ surfaces. The story is narrated with the voice of Sokolow’s ubiquitous protagonist, also known as “you,” a somewhat unreliable individual, who, in this particular story, exists as an artist and disgruntled security guard on staff at the Art Institute in Chicago.
This narrator, along with other artists from various countries, have been invited to spend two months at a retreat on a mountaintop in rural Norway with the premise that a quiet, secluded environment will be provided for making art. Unbeknownst to those invited, the retreat is actually a recruitment center for an international art theft organization called “The Association” and the selection process is neither based on artistic merit nor exhibition credentials but on the sole qualification that each artist selected must also be an unhappy security guard working at an art museum with a weak security system and vulnerable masterpieces.
During the two months at the retreat, the artists are slowly brainwashed into believing that The Association has the connections and power to make each of them famous in exchange for staging art thefts inside the museums they work at. Along the way, each artist is put through a series of mental and physical tests as part of the art thief recruiting process. The story also touches on chilling plans to harvest Norwegian trolls for meat to be used in Philly cheesesteaks, a poisoning and other murderous schemes.
Part truth, part fiction, and part comedy, Sokolow’s complex visual tales are based on well-researched facts expanded by the fantastical mind of the narrator, who the artist identifies as “you,” making the reader/viewer an active participant in the almost-convincing events… Collaged and drawn images including portraits, photographs, diagrams, and maps accompany the awkward, handwritten text. The size of the text matters: the largest text, or “primary” narrative voice, tells the main story; the smaller “secondary” text conveys what you (as the paranoid or unreliable narrator) are thinking; and an even smaller “tertiary” text reveals what you are really thinking but would never dare verbalize. The artist’s hand is intentionally imperfect, with the graphite smudged, covered with Wite-Out™, and even masked by black bars, mimicking declassified government documents.
— Patricia Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art, excerpt from the 2013 essay for Sokolow’s MATRIX exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.