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Untitled (Spiral)

Installation view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, IL

Installation view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, IL

Distributed across the floor on rectangular white panels reminiscent of beds or coffins, the melancholic collection of objects seemed left behind, perhaps in a ritual, but certainly in accordance with an internal logic or a long forgotten directive. Among eroding urn-like forms and black & white videos with simple unchanging text, Untitled (Spiral) was vastly influenced by its setting. Due to the commanding curatorial voice, and despite obvious differences in medium and approach, all of the work looked as though one artist had created it. There was a stillness and tranquility throughout the exhibit.

Untitled (Spiral) was ambiguous in a number of ways. It featured an androgynous child that faced away from the camera while drawing an irregular spiral with white chalk. The mid-length hairstyle and non-descript gown, combined with the old-fashioned blackboard and chalk, all in black and white, made the video nonspecific enough to be timeless while evoking the passing of time. Nothing seemed to change as the video repeated the creation of the spiral performed by the child. However, with the spiral beginning and ending again and again, nothing could be recovered either. Multiple iterations were sectioned and edited into the looping video, further interfering with the completion of the drawing. These iterations reminded us of the impossibility of true repetition, of the inability to return to things that have been lost or transformed by the experience of recollection, by changes within the process.

Suara Welitoff, Untitled (Spiral), 2013, Single Channel Video

Suara Welitoff, Untitled (Spiral), 2013, Single Channel Video

Installation view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, IL

Installation view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, IL

Ultimately, the video was the spatial and temporal nexus in the exhibition. The flatscreen display had extra room on the panel and away from other objects, implying that the image could extend outside the limits of the screen and into the physical space. The space was of ritual evocation, casting the changeless variation of the video throughout the entire exhibit. A unifying symbol of growth and infinity, the spiral was imminent like a black hole or a galaxy or perhaps a developing seashell. However, it never grew beyond a certain point. This continuous imminence signified what was left, a final forgetting.

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The bare space of the gallery opened up with a few large installations constructed out of simple repeating materials. Less immediate was the series of five faint forms on the closest wall. This was an unusual encounter: at first glance we noticed a cluster of insignificant shadows or scuffmarks, perhaps more convincingly a shallow counter-relief of repeating patterns in the wall, made of wall. They turned out to be five large, astonishingly faint images of gestural streaks. Only one of them had delineated square edges that implied the same format for all five.

Manish Nai, Untitled

Manish Nai, Untitled, 2015, Distemper and Poster Paint on Wall, Site-Specific Mural at Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL

Like subatomic particle collision or military data visualization, or glitch, the piece took its aesthetic qualities from both minimalist gestural brush strokes and data-driven machine art. It seemed carved into the drywall with perfect robotic precision, closely resembling an artifact of photo editing software with the same positive and negative digital transparencies slightly misaligned. The five images seemed formless without actually being so. As representations of representations, they reminded us of thumbnails with their frustrating incapability to “truly signify,” that is, inform.

Manish Nai, Untitled

Manish Nai, Untitled (detail), 2015, Distemper and Poster Paint on Wall, Site-Specific Mural at Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL

Closer inspection shattered all of these impressions. This was a mural made of small, presumably stenciled gray and white squares, like pixels. The conversion would not have emerged without our awareness of digital image-making coupled with our shifting perspective, our movement in space. The tiny painted squares whose edges were not perfectly clean could have easily been created a thousand years ago. How could something so simple in form look so machined? This was an abstracted image, not in the typical sense of abstraction, of paring down to fundamental elements ­– but abstraction toward a higher complexity that increases in speed and shrinks in size. The installation spoke of the nature of our new vision, of mediation, of the way in which a thing can no longer be experienced firsthand. Everything we see is administered by the digital era with a rift between generations and a layered confusion; digital mediation has made a lot possible that we couldn’t imagine before. These abstract images ultimately collapsed upon themselves. By representing data and the complexities of information, they became images we could see and know, and perhaps even name.

Manish Nai, Untitled

Manish Nai, Untitled (detail), 2015, Distemper and Poster Paint on Wall, Site-Specific Mural at Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL

A multitude of perspectives transformed the artwork through each moment we took to gaze, only to confound us at the point of understanding or grasping, which left a chasm between conveyance, representation, and knowing. Could it be possible that the chasm is shallow, and at the bottom lies a ravine composed of both the familiar and the potential?

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Dana Carter, Untitled, 2012, evaporated salt water on fabric, 6x9 feet

Dana Carter, Untitled, 2012, evaporated salt water on fabric, 6×9 feet, installed at Western Exhibitions in Chicago, IL

We get lured to look closely at an object when it contains a printed image. In this instance, we noticed discolorations, ambiguous lines, and impressions of form and movement, which appeared from a distance and then transformed as we moved closer. Lines shattered into textures, forms became patterns, and wholes became assemblages of parts. In other areas, the opposite happened – fragments merged into wholes. We were surprised to face so many evocations from this untitled sculpture, image, screen, and installation, all at once.

Dana Carter, Untitled (detail), 2012, evaporated salt water on fabric, 6×9 feet

Dana Carter, Untitled (detail), 2012

A horizontal landscape, the black curtain was pleated across the center and fringed with an irregular ruffle of dried crusty salt. Curtains are rarely plain black. The textured and lacy white pattern materialized into a traditional photograph of the ocean hitting the shore at night with foam accumulating in the leading layers of the wave, or sedimentary rock, or galaxy. We moved toward the untitled object, and during the approach there was a simultaneous capturing, and the object cast itself as new. We discovered the tactile, physical appearance as the recorded drying, shrinking, and crystallizing of the salt solution had pulled the curtain into a tension, breaking the image. The tightness brought the night back to fabric used for clothing, like a defective stretched t­-shirt.

This black form invited us through evocation, and then separated us through its presence. It wanted to be identified, though not completely. We desired the photograph of a gentle wave reaching the shore at night. But the crystallized salt on the surface and the damage it had done to the fabric was blatantly flavored of dirty street salt on pants in the city in winter, or the salt stains on concrete walls at a viaduct. The repulsion quickly spun back to the ruffled curtain, stitched with odd rainbow-colored thread out of two pieces of fabric right where the photographic “rule of thirds” might fit. We got too close – the tiny thread tricked us. We wanted to reach and pull back the curtain to find a hidden portal or stage. Vividly, we found ourselves, distant still from the object and from the image it conveyed, separated by its causality.

Dana Carter, Untitled (detail), 2012, evaporated salt water on fabric, 6×9 feet

Dana Carter, Untitled (detail), 2012