'Exquisite Attention' Opens at HEDGE Gallery Friday, March 18, for 78th Street Studios Monthly Showcase

click to enlarge "Dancing in the Dark," by Cathie Bleck - COURTESTY HEDGE GALLERY
Courtesty HEDGE Gallery
"Dancing in the Dark," by Cathie Bleck

Individual and collaborative pieces by artists Rebecca Cross, Cathie Bleck and Taryn McMahon will be featured in Exquisite Attention, an exhibition which aims to raise consciousness about human impact on our environment and the “beauty, fragility and resiliency of threatened species.” Moreover, the three-woman exhibition which opens Friday, March 18 at HEDGE Gallery for the 78th Street Studios Third Fridays event, is a fitting display for Women's History Month.

The title, Exquisite Attention, draws from the artists’ experimentation with the exquisite corpse exercise created by Surrealists. In the inception of that game, the sentence “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine” was written on a sheet of paper. Players would continue the narrative thread in turn, writing on the sheet, folding it to hide their portion, and passing it to the next player for their contribution.

The same principle can be applied to visual art. These three artists not only used this method as a collaborative tool but as inspiration for the show’s title. It is meant to communicate the sharp reverence, focus or ‘attention’ the artists were putting on natural systems, whether biological or ecological.

“Rebecca Cross, Cathie Bleck, and I started talking about doing a show together a few years ago,” explains McMahon. “As we spoke, we realized that a connecting thread between all of us as artists is the attention we pay to natural systems. We wanted the title of the show to reflect this idea of paying close attention. We also started working on several exquisite corpse collaborative mixed media works... Everyone has their own unique voice but everyone also has to respond to the previous artists' choices. The title of the show is also a nod to that way of collaborating.”

In the exhibition, McMahon’s utilizes found objects from the shores of the Cuyahoga River and uses digital and handmade printmaking techniques to profile their contours, silhouetted stratums or foliage to pull the viewer into the cross section where humans intercept nature on multiple planes of existence. The washed out pastels against cool whites leave the viewer with a feeling of tranquility and calm.

“…I began by taking walks and collecting both naturally occurring and human generated items from the banks, including rocks, netting, Styrofoam, plants, and plastics,” McMahon says. “I found that the layering of these objects, both in the actual spaces and in the prints, is a reflection of the current state of entanglement between people and our environment, which is something I explore in my work. Drawing upon the legacy of artists such as Anna Atkins, I strive to capitalize on printmaking’s inherent ability to layer and record objects in order to document local ecologies.”

A press release explains how Cross showcases her bio-tracings series, a collection of futuristic, natural history objects, or “exprints” of imagined, extinct plant species created with silk forms in the process of traditional Japanese shibori. These silk, chalk pastel works resemble deep sea ocean environs with an unknown expanse thriving behind a veil of dulled murkiness. The spectrum of refracted light transports the viewer into a dream state while amplifying the continuum of colors found in the natural world.

“I primarily work in silk, which I often sculpt into biomorphic forms,” says Cross. “The material itself is magical: lightweight, diaphanous, and also very strong. Silk contains both fragility and resiliency. In 2018, I began a series of pieces that imagined extinct plant species that were remembered in these silk forms that create a kind of skin, or tracing, of an imagined but “recognizable” long-lost bioform, exhibited in some futuristic setting. These sculptures are an attempt to capture the intricacy and delicacy—really the miracle—of plant life as I experience it in the real world.”

Bleck says she has reverted back to her rawer display of emotion with her works created hand-to-paper and her clay pigment paintings, which seem more visceral and less rigid then some her scratchboard and kaolin clay board pieces. These tap into a controlled abandon, an aesthetic found somewhere between a Lewis Carroll fantasy and a Salvador Dali dreamscape. Her work surveys human origins, lineage of species, the infiniteness of the cosmos, and dichotomies and polarities of nature as observed by humans in a vast and marvelous universe, drawing upon her own unique human exploration.

"When presented with the concept for this exhibition, I began my process by recalling the most spectacular things in nature that I have ever witnessed," she says. "To celebrate all that nature gifts us is in itself a form of meditation."

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