Artists: Elena Ailes, Cameron Clayborn, Rami George, April Martin, Máire Witt O’Neill, Derrick Woods-Morrow
Curated by Jameson Paige
Strained States is a group exhibition that translates the snowballing precariousness of global politics into an operative position of instability, one that attempts to acknowledge new subjectivities and methods for living in a groundless present. Playing with identity, form, and material, the artists included take up transition, ambiguity, and the erosion of limits as core interests in their practices. The show is a gesture towards understanding the complexity of our attachments, as well as the state of instability beyond its negative connotations, seeing it instead as a generative position to occupy with rigor, curiosity, and pleasure.
Cameron Clayborn investigates how racial and gender performativities might translate into weights, densities, and textures. His supple sculptures imagine how objects relate to one another with familial forms of attachment, while also inciting notions of bodily capacity—how surfaces stretch, fold, and buckle. April Martin experiments with natural processes determined by ongoing change. She plays with our expectations, pointing out how changes in material can be delicate and yet simultaneously quite harsh. Rami George mines his family’s history to understand connections between Lebanese nationalism, the specters of Civil War, family dynamics, and civic rupture, pulling the personal and national into close conversation. His video work assembles footage from multiple sources to show how singular histories are the result of multiple fractured narratives congealing. Máire Witt O’Neill’s sculptural pieces use a softer form of ground, the plushness of a rug, to also show how multiple narratives overlap. The lingering imprints on her woven surfaces show how easily notions of truth are affected and swayed. Derrick Woods-Morrow bridges the gaps between history and the present through material and textual transformations. His work calls upon the complexity of desire to make sense of historical cracks. Elena Ailes explores how affect might be embodied through material in a subtle series of objects that sit between sculpture and drawing. Her contribution outlines the contours of the exhibition by pointing to the intensities between other artists’ works, where they rub each other’s edges, and how the gallery’s architecture itself pushes and pulls us toward certain sensations and states.
All of the artists included in Strained States embrace slipperiness when approaching their work, in content and in form. Artworks that examine socially-defined attachments like race, gender, and sexuality, come into direct conversation with works that probe non-human and material experience. Many works bleed between all of these categories, pointing to the need for more complex readings of how subjectivity, attachment, and materiality overlap. Pulling these artists’ wide-ranging practices together in one exhibition is a chance to consider how identity, form, and material are deeply intertwined and yet remain extraordinarily conditional—each field constantly straining for air time. Strained States is a gesture towards understanding the complexity of attachments, as well as the state of instability beyond its negative connotations, seeing it instead as a generative position to occupy with rigor, curiosity, and pleasure.