On January 22nd, Devening Projects proudly opens the first solo show at the gallery of Chicago artist Maggie Crowley. A reception for the artist takes place from 3 – 5pm on Sunday; the exhibition continues until March 4th.
Comb is a great title for Maggie Crowley’s first solo show at Devening Projects. A verb and a noun, the word suggests both an untangling and the means to do so. It suggests a desire to order and search; in another to metabolize or confuse. Crowley approaches this idea by allowing the viewer to “comb through” a series of delicately produced and carefully delivered silk paintings, welded metal armatures and site-specific interventions. While moving through the space one encounters reflections by the artist on closely observed fragments of life events and the physical manifestations of objects, observations and memories. Disparate things like clothing, nail clippers, a receipt, and a chainsaw chain are braided in and out of each other, pointing at importance or at the very least hinting at some invisible system. Looking closer, the images, objects and intense shifts in scale suggest moments of significance in Crowley’s life. Sometimes woven into their material support or just elusive enough to disappear, these visual notes—once discovered and identified—are the means through which one begins to sort through, interpret and ultimately arrive at the most compelling destination. This process may be familiar to anyone in the company of an artwork, but with Maggie Crowley’s work, there is little or no hierarchy guiding the process. The audience takes cues from the artist and weaves together something that grants access not only Crowley’s physical and psychic experience, but the means to discover their own.
In Comb, Maggie Crowley uses materials and applies methods of construction that reflect her history and the legacy of her upbringing. Skillful labor and pride of hand work is seen in the making of the painted silk veils and welded steel supports, often interlocked to function as a single work. The rawness of the metal against the delicacy of the silk brings a heightened awareness to the properties of both. Similarly, there is dissonance in the imagery—sometimes yardwork, sometimes a ballpoint point—dissolving any linear read of the work. Raised by a hairdresser and a welder, Crowley is sensitive to the intimate process of and care for material and craft. As she says in her statement for the show, “…the language of cosmetology and iron work inform my materials, imagery and hanging systems for painting. A silk substrate recalls the cape worn at the hair salon as well as the theatrical performance of the hairdresser. Silk also behaves like human hair. Trade materials such as angle iron, threaded rods and other ferrous metals are ARC welded to create non-traditional frames. This combination speaks to my research interest in bodily intelligence and the complexities between vocation and intellectualism.”
Comb shouldn’t be seen a distillation of an idea; there are too many wonderfully eccentric components distributed within and throughout the exhibition to suggest anything resolute. What can be said with certainty is that the bits and pieces discovered in this exhibition become what an audience sifts through in order arrive at their own idea of how one’s life and one’s history may lead to the legacy of a strong future.