Tonight! Thursday May 25th

Formal Complaint: Artists in Conversation

formal complaint image

Formal Complaint: Artists in Conversation
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Join artists Female Background, Aria Dean (via Skype), Christopher Hanrahan, and Mario Navarro in a reading and conversation with Formal Complaint co–curator Dana Kopel. For this event each artist will read a brief passage (from a text of their own, or one that they admire) that connects to their work and ideas. Following the reading, Kopel will moderate a discussion on the exhibition’s themes of sad formalism, tender objects, and domestic and vernacular architecture.

Formal Complaint April 15–May 28, 2017 Opening Reception: Saturday April 15, 6–9pm


Knockdown Center

Craft, scrap, and architectural minimalism coincide in Formal Complaint. Featuring work by Aria Dean, Female Background, Christopher Hanrahan, Mario Navarro, and Megan Pahmier, the exhibition returns handiwork to formalism, while maintaining a sense of slackness.

Metal armatures lean and bend precariously; a painting on unstretched canvas drags on the floor. Discarded materials and everyday objects come to conjure an upright but “bereft formalism,” as Hanrahan calls it. His sculptural outline of a table rendered in thin strips of brass deploys a graceful material precarity to reclaim architectural space. An untitled sculpture by Dean disrupts the gallery space, with pipes that lean precariously against the wall and stretch across the floor; and her floor-grazing painting Untitled, from the Glob Cobbler (2016), is marked with streaks of black, white, and ochre, seemingly part artwork and part dropcloth.

Tenderness and despair coalesce in objects that can only just support themselves, much less make a claim for historical or philosophical significance. Some works can barely sustain their original forms: the grapes speared on a steel rod in Pahmier’s Fountain (2015), for instance, shrivel and rot over the course of the exhibition. The vaguely figurative object sculptures of Female Background act as neither reference nor obfuscation, like signals of intended failure. Mario Navarro’s mobiles repurpose materials from local demolitions—rebar, bits of stone, and cement. Hanging from the ceiling, they combine the flat pictorial space of a painting with the haphazard juxtapositions of found sculpture, combining elements of destruction and decor.

The works in the exhibition undermine past minimalisms from multiple directions—in terms of material, attitude, and dependence on context—but out of a care for and maintenance of form, rather than a casting off of it. Through these mergers of vernacular minimalism and sad design, work and supporting structure, Formal Complaint creates its own ecology of exhibitionary space.