February 11 – March 17, 2021

Barbara Broughel, Bruce Nauman, Liliana Porter, Laurie Simmons, and Lorna Simpson

Krakow Witkin Gallery

Virtual Viewing:

“Abstraction pushed the use of the perspectival grid beyond its primary function (to allow the rendering of objects in perspective without distortion) and inadvertently made ‘compositions’ from the individual squares within the grid.” (Barbara Broughel)

Broughel’’s “Broken Bubbles” examines the history of abstraction in one of its possible birthplaces (circa 1700’ Northern Europe) through the depiction, not only of a period-related subject – bubbles – but of the process and materials of rendering (Broughel used pigments and wood that would have been used at that time). What is unconventional, or even radical for the period, is the composition and the way it fractures the realism of the image through leaving the grid visible (thus it references the tool which allows for that realism).

“My pieces depict a cast of characters that are inanimate objects, toys and figurines that I find in flea markets, antique stores, and other odd places. The objects have a double existence. On the one hand they are mere appearance, insubstantial ornaments, but, at the same time, have a gaze that can be animated by the viewer, who, through it, can project the inclination to endow things with an interiority and identity. These “theatrical vignettes” are constructed as visual comments that speak of the human condition. I am interested in the simultaneity of humor and distress, banality and the possibility of meaning.” (Liliana Porter)

Porter’s photos can be read as innocent, yet Porter engages the exaggerated facial features and subtle gestures of toys to create open-ended dialogues. Empty expressions become deeply meaningful engagement when in conversation with others. As Jessica Berlanga Taylor has written, “Liliana Porter’s work exists at a remove from the anxious imagination of much postmodern art, offering hope imbued through objects, photographs, paintings, drawings, installations, graphics and videos. Despite the irony and drama in her productions, the characters in her work appeal directly to a range of emotions and states of mind – love, sadness, fear, anger, elation, humour, contemplativeness, vulnerability and fragility… Using objects collected since the late 1960s – porcelain figurines, plastic soldiers, rubber ducks, watches, candles, dolls and such like – Porter creates sensitive landscapes that suggest appealing questions: what is real and what is virtual? What if everything is a representation of something else? What happens in the space between reality and representation?”

Laurie Simmons’ “Untitled (Living Room/Bathroom II)” is part of a seminal body of work, “In and Around the House,” that put Simmons at the forefront of a new generation of artists, predominantly women, whose photographic works began a different dialogue in contemporary art.

In this work by Lorna Simpson, a photograph of a pair of a woman’s empty dress shoes standing on a specific but unidentifiable floor is juxtaposed with the pedals of an old upright piano situated in an unidentifiable and light-less space. Simpson’s addition of watercolor to the shoes could reference the human touch in the subject matter or the tradition of hand-tinting in nineteenth-century photographs. Both of these perhaps suggest a narrative engaging familial history and/or loss. Below the image, Simpson has printed an intentionally open-ended text that reads, “What should fit here is an oblique story about absence, but I can’t remember the short version.” By leaving so much open-ended, Simpson reminds the viewer that even the seemingly familiar is more complicated than one initially assumes.

In a 2001 interview with the curator Joan Simon, Nauman explained where the idea for the Partial Truth series came from:
“It was the year that Susan [Rothenberg] and I had sublet a loft in New York. Konrad [Fischer, the art dealer] had heard about that. He called and said, ‘Bruce, I hear you’re moving to New York.’ I said. ‘No, well maybe partly. This is partly true.’” (Joan Simon, ‘Bruce Nauman: Vices and Virtues: Interview’, 2001, in Janet Kraynak (ed.), Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003, pp. 392–3.)

The “Partial Truth” series consists of a black granite slab (which was partially done as an ode to Fischer after he passed away), a blind embossing made from the granite slab, and the pair of works presented here, each with the words ‘PARTIAL TRUTH’ displayed in the Roman-style lettering “scriptura monumentalis”. The words ‘PARTIAL TRUTH’ resist confirming completeness, implying that not all is what it seems, which is very much the case for the pair that Krakow Witkin Gallery is presenting.

Boston MAExhibitionsFebruary 2021Krakow Witkin GalleryMarch 2021Virtual