Jan 17th 2023

University Galleries of Illinois State University is pleased to present simplenothingsimplesomething, a solo exhibition by Avantika Bawa, from January 17 through March 3, 2023. All events are free and open to the public.

simplenothingsimplesomething comprises several new works on paper and a large-scale installation. This exhibition is the most recent iteration of Bawa’s experiments with construction scaffolds, which began in 2012 and have spanned several formats. Compelled equally by their geometrical elegance and their passive ubiquity in daily life, Bawa has revealed scaffolds to be a surprisingly rich sculptural medium. She has eked novel designs out of their crossbars and rectangles on salt flats in India and fields in Oregon, as well as in gallery interiors across the United States. She has also miniaturized her scaffolds using 3D printers, and used them as matrices to create embossed prints, demonstrating how slight adjustments to a consistent form’s scale, color, surroundings, and means of presentation can beget a large range of visual effects. This exhibition, which presents both a new series of relief prints and a network of jet-black scaffolding, shows a progression in Bawa’s approach to her signature material.

The relief prints in simplenothingsimplesomething, which Bawa executed during her time at Watershed Print Residency, are continuations of a series of embossings that she included in a 2021 exhibition at the University of Kentucky Art Museum. Like those, these are nearly colorless, the plain white or gray of their paper decorated by faint impressions from a scaffold-derived matrix. In each case, the smooth surface of the paper hums with the textures pressed into it. These prints, however, are both bigger and quieter than the Kentucky embossings: the sheets stand almost ten feet tall and, on each, just a few impressions combine to form commanding images. The prints in this exhibition have turned their predecessors’ rhythmic energy into a quiet grace.

The title for this exhibition was adapted from a 2011 interview of the sculptor John McCracken (whose brightly colored leaning planks Bawa cites as an enduring influence). “With many Minimalist [artworks],” he said, “one could be tempted to think [that the work is] merely a simple nothing, but it’s really a simple something.” A push and pull between “something” and “nothing” — always executed through the simplest of means — is consistently the source of meaning and power in Bawa’s art.

simplenothingsimplesomething is curated by Troy Sherman, Curator at University Galleries. This exhibition is supported by University Galleries’ grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Harold K. Sage Foundation, and the Illinois State University Foundation Fund.

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