Eric’s Trip at Lisa Cooley

July 18, 2014 |

I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Eric’s Trip, a group show at Lisa Cooley Gallery curated by Cynthia Daignault and Mark Loiacono, (but for those of you that haven’t seen it, the show runs until August 1). One of the most striking things about this show, upon my first scan of the room, was the true summer vibe of the show – it just felt right.

David Kennedy Cutler‘s pieces are Plexiglas icy monoliths that function both as minimal sculptures and distorting screens. Positioned throughout the gallery, they make the viewer, (or at least this viewer), nervous in the same way one would be nervous to walk into a perfectly clean glass door in public. These piece are the anchors of the group show. They veil the room with a crunchy, clear, distorting filter that, as you move around the room, bend and fold the works of art that surround them. They are a quiet viewfinder, acting as a lens that is also key to the curatorial concept behind Eric’s Trip. According to the press release, “centering on notions of performance, projection and aura, this exhibition examines the process of narrating consciousness, experience, trip and vision.”

Eric's Trip

Jose Lerma’s contribution to the show seems to be a space of worship, consisting of  a truly beautiful and strange rug, a fantasy picnic blanket even, with a Play-Doh floral motif that is worshiping its partner on the wall.  The rug prevents closeness to the piece on the wall, while also promoting adoration of it by locking down a permanent position in the room. This mirroring of image and color made me think about mirroring and what it is to look at something (or look up to something) that you yourself are not but that you aspire to be.

Judith Linhares’ work is also an exciting element of this show for me, because I rarely get the opportunity to see her work in person, even though I am a huge admirer of her strong colorful paintings. The figures in Linhares’ paintings are essentially attendees of this exhibition. They playfully watch over the show, lounging as if they are tanning in the glow of other paintings while they wait to see what we do in the space. I couldn’t help but fantasize that they could see me in the same way that I could see them through Kennedy Cutler’s sculptures.  It was almost as if Linhares’ painting Polly could’ve come to life and lovey Polly could’ve jumped out of the painting and laid down across the room on Lerma’s painting rug.

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Finally, Mathew Zefeldt’s paintings are brand new to me, but seem to be the icing on the cake for my hallucination sunburn fantasy. In one of Zefeldt’s paintings, the gradient of sunset-rainbow-color is emphatically applied in the background while in the foreground an illustrative style depicts a repeat of sculptural portraits that just happen to form a smiley face. To say this was unexpected is a completely honest confession – I didn’t see it coming because I was so distracted by the strangeness of the repeated portrait image – something like an art historical temporary tattoo over and over again, but then Zefeldt really got me with that smiley face. His painting is undeniably smart and funny.

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I wanted to get another perspective on the show, and for that I turned to Cynthia Daignault, half of the duo that curated Eric’s Trip. I presented her with five questions hoping to gain some insight into the thought process behind the show.

SATW: The name for the show, Eric’s Trip, came to us because:

Cynthia Daignault: We love Warhol; we love Sonic Youth; we love Eric’s Trip (the eponymous 90’s band). Actually, the whole show started with Judith Linhares. We knew we wanted to build a show around her paintings, so we were listing adjectives about Judy’s work in order to find the title and organizing principle. Here’s the email exchange from 2013: “Technicolor. Geometric. Psychedelic.” “Maybe we should call it Eric’s Trip.” “I like where this is going.”

SATW: We found the artists that we included in Eric’s Trip by:

CD: All methods. Some of the artists in the show were idols (Judy, Nancy, Sheila), women we really respect who’ve been making incredible work their whole lives. I thought they deserved more, and I realized I could sit around bitching about how the art world is sexist (which it is) and that there are diminishing opportunities for women as they pass 50 (which there are), or I could engender change through positive action. So began the cold calls, and lucky for me they said “yes.” Some of the artists (Jose, David, Margaret) were peers and friends who I’ve met throughout my time in the art world, like David, who I met at 19 in a painting class in Paris. The rest were people we found randomly on the internet and on the streets (Kamau, Mathew, Victoria and Rory). We searched a lot of websites looking at hundreds of artists who seemed to vibe with the show.

Sometimes we knew what we were looking for, a strong black and white photographer, for instance (Rory); sometimes, we just found the artist and then let their work change the show accordingly (Kamau); and sometimes we just met one in the street (Mathew). We didn’t plan for diversity, but we constantly questioned our own biases to leave room for it. I am proud of the range of artists represented. That said, it’s not a coincidence that they are all wonderful people. No assholes. That’s a rule I live by, and that any curatorial project has to follow.

SATW: The most rewarding part of putting this show together was:

CD: Promoting these incredible artists. It’s crazy to get to the point where you have just enough power to help someone else. I mean we’re still at the bottom of the food chain, but I remember Mark saying, “just think how much we will be able to do when we have some real power. We could change the world.” (Spoiler Alert: that’s the plan). I won’t lie. The reality of how easy it is to help other people, gives me a palpable disdain for any artist at the top who does nothing to help anyone besides themselves. It’s nice to think of curation that way, as helping. Art making can be insular in its nature. So, I think it’s important to find ways to get outside your studio and your own head (working, teaching, collaborating, curating). Doing this show, I didn’t need to advance myself as a “curator,” so my only goal was to give these nine artists the place to do what they do.

SATW: As an artist, I enjoy curating shows because:

CD: It was the only 20 days this year that I wasn’t alone in my studio slowly becoming the unibomber. Seriously. Painting is lonely and people are thrilling for an old hermit. I got to hang out with 9 really cool artists and my best friend. What’s not to like? These artists are such cool people, who each made incredible works for the show. I look good as a result of their hard work. And I don’t mean that in a parasitic way. Do you know Baldessari’s piece ‘Choosing Rutabaga?’ It’s a photo series in which he sets up two Rutabaga and asks the participant (seen as a single finger) to choose one. No instructions. No other prompting. Ostensibly, one has to set the criteria for their choice: looks, vibe, size, color, comic value, etc. The point is choosing is everything. It is both the articulation and enaction of a value system. That’s what painting is for me. That’s what looking at art is for me. And that’s what curation is.

SATW: The most memorable feedback we’ve gotten so far on the show was:

CD: Kati Gegenheimer writing this humbling post.

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