Mar 24th 2023

Carisa Mitchell: Oh, the terms of ambiguity

@ Parlour and Ramp Gallery

2130 W 21st St, Chicago, IL 60608

Opening Friday, March 24th, from 7PM - 9PM

On view through Thursday, April 20th

Maybe Carisa Mitchell’s work presents radical potential in the failure, inability, and flat-out refusal to describe class and gender dynamics in any satisfactory manner. While living in Switzerland and receiving her Master’s Degree at Geneva School of Art and Design circa 2016, the culture shock prompted Mitchell to develop conceptual works of art, based almost entirely on miscommunication. In her oblique text works, Mitchell weaponizes empty signifiers against micro-aggression and subjugation. Sometimes Mitchell’s work takes casual sexist and classist statements made to her—more often than not by aloof, male peers—as inspiration for these works.

Mitchell’s repertoire involves: collecting and displaying tchotchkes and souvenirs from Disneyland, other thrift and random shops; doing text-based works in neon and LED displays that frequently transform misspellings, double-entendres, and mistranslations into luminous concrete poems; intervening, minimally, into store-bought felt by writing single words like “Congrats,” and “More.”

Some of her poems are little watercolor statements on index cards, “A BRIEF PAUSE FOR UTOPIA, ” painted in black, reads like a clever tweet. “If they meow, they must see a pussy,” reads like a bot. She also arranges her spam email, seemingly written by bots and scammers, into concrete poems. The types of emails that prey on the reader’s desires with statements like “I want to give you $3M right now” or, “You would like to go on a date with a pretty girl like me because I have a nice character as well.” Like any good scam, the skill is in tightening up the vagaries, leaving enough tidy, empty, space for the reader to fill in.

Those won’t make it into the show; however, in a similar series, the artist prints empty statements in black ink onto black paper. Mitchell did these works in response to a male colleague who told her, “you should paint.” Her black-on-black prints emulate the crude seductive qualities of the aforementioned spam emails, drawing the reader closer, to read phrases like “Bob hoped for a good cry,” which confront them with this fact: you really don’t need to read everything. Not all names point to real people–who is Bob, anyway? Who cares? The work evokes comically misspelled “Yard Sale” signs, hastily mistranslated to “Yard Sard.” Maybe there’s some subversive potential in a poster so silly that it momentarily liberates you from desire.

– Max Guy

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