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Charted Territory: Robin Rice on “Mapping: Outside/Inside” at Gershman Y – Philadelphia City Paper
|| 5/25/2010 || 1:47 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Screen grab from the Philadelphia City Paper website

My maps are reviewed in this week’s issue of the Philadelphia City Paper:

Maps are composed of signs. In addition to text, they include linear patterns and coded colors; a sense of rhythm and predictability is part of their visual appeal. Issues of scale and modularity, either organic or mechanically imposed, are contemporary art concerns, as well. Digital kaleidoscopic repetition of aerial photographs is blogger Nikolas Schiller’s shtick. He calls his quilt-like pieces “geospatial art.” Four of his works in this show are based on the Gershman Y seen from above, and a fifth is a Star of David configuration made of fragments of disputed territories of Israel and Palestine. Appealing lacy patterns in muted greens, brick reds and white evoke myriad references from Victorian decoration to Islamic mosaics to cellular division. On the other hand, like the similarly attractive fractal patterns, they end up being more decorative than profound.

Read the rest of the review by Robin Rice:


Charted Territory

Robin Rice on Visual Art | Mapping: Outside/Inside at Gershman Y

It’s no wonder maps are like a siren song to artists. Like the centuries of cartography that came before, even Google Earth is a seductive invitation to get lost: Maps are infinitely fascinating and infinitely frustrating. Four well-known artists’ provocative and visually delightful considerations of maps as subject, process and material can be found at the Gershman Y’s Borowsky Gallery.

Maps typically show us where something is — but they can also show when. Most of Leila Daw’s maps (pictured) are about earlier versions of a landscape. The small-square format of her painted Map Icons and her use of “precious” materials like glitter emphasize the symbolic intention of these iconic records of a time and place. Some paintings in this series celebrate Peruvian geoglyphs on the high plains of Nasca; the purpose of these ancient artifacts has been lost. Even the technique of making the remarkably accurate lines, which themselves can seem like mapping superimposed on the Earth’s surface, is disputed. Similar Map Icons by Daw relate to Australian Aborigines and other non-industrial cultures.

Daw also presents a large map, Northeast Seas Exploration, about European travel and the conventions of historical European maps. Map-makers traditionally emphasize the value of their work by ornamenting them with coats of arms, sea serpents or mythic monsters of foreign climes. In her exhibition essay, curator Miriam Seidel points out, “Maps do not simply convey factual information in a neutral way; they tell us about underlying assumptions, blind spots and agendas.” The most common distortion of modern maps is occasioned by the perfectly reasonable decision to represent the map-maker’s (or his client’s) home area at the map’s center. This placement changes the apparent size of neighboring locations. They are altered by trapezoidal distortions of latitude and longitude.

Accuracy or objectivity is one concern of Eve Andrée Laramée’s large installations dealing with history, science, nature and art. These issues are interesting, even wonderful, even beautiful, she shows us, but objectivity is impossible. Furthermore, she suggests that reliance on putative objectivity can have toxic or dangerous consequences. Laramée’s acrylic paintings in this show comment on the “truth” of maps by covering parts of real ones with pastel painted circles and other geometric shapes (literal evocations of Seidel’s “blind spots”). The results, precise but seemingly in flux, are deceptively pretty, somewhat like quilts with a grid of diagonal stitching.

Maps are composed of signs. In addition to text, they include linear patterns and coded colors; a sense of rhythm and predictability is part of their visual appeal. Issues of scale and modularity, either organic or mechanically imposed, are contemporary art concerns, as well. Digital kaleidoscopic repetition of aerial photographs is blogger Nikolas Schiller’s shtick. He calls his quilt-like pieces “geospatial art.” Four of his works in this show are based on the Gershman Y seen from above, and a fifth is a Star of David configuration made of fragments of disputed territories of Israel and Palestine. Appealing lacy patterns in muted greens, brick reds and white evoke myriad references from Victorian decoration to Islamic mosaics to cellular division. On the other hand, like the similarly attractive fractal patterns, they end up being more decorative than profound.

Joyce Kozloff, doyenne of the Pattern and Decoration movement, has called some of her map-based pieces Boys’ Work, in reference to men’s warlike behavior. No doubt, she intends a contrast to the domestic decorative arts associated with women that her work frequently celebrates. The map pieces in this show, however, are, like Daw’s Map Icons, inspired by various cultures: By suggesting analogies with body systems, Kozloff reminds us that the earth is also a living body.

Maps are familiar and mysterious all at once. They are communicative abstractions derived from arbitrary processes, rich cultural documents, and they look great in collages. It’s hardly surprising that map-making is a good place to begin art-making.


Mapping: Outside/Inside Through Aug. 15, Borowsky Gallery, Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St., 215-446-3001, gershmany.org



Post Title: Charted Territory: Robin Rice on “Mapping: Outside/Inside” at Gershman Y – Philadelphia City Paper
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Posted in: Gallery, In The News, Location, News, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Paper
Last edited by Nikolas Schiller on 6/22/2010 at 7:54 pm



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