Installation at Kentler International Drawing Space in Brooklyn, NY 2000

Hildegard Skowasch’s installation at Kentler International Drawing Space, in Brooklyn, NY connects the tenuousness of paper with the tenuousness of the living organism. With delicacy of touch and of wit, her work creates a space of inversion, in is out, the unseen is visible, the microscopic magnified, the dimensional rendered flat.

Some visual art engages the mind by positing problems. Other artworks privelege the narrative capacity of picture making. Visceral delight in visual experience is the opening into Skowasch’s work; enjoyment in seeing initiates perception and thought.

The viewer enters into the diminutive gallery, greeted by shapes made by of paper machetes, animated by colorful lops of candies. The art works are comfortably sized to human scale: a hand bag of a piece, formed of stuffed paper. Its vaguely circular body is girded with multiple handle like appendages looping all around it. Behind it drawn directly on the wall is a rudimentary outline of a cylinder, while around the corner small red candy rings and one red paper square scale the wall.

Each piece connects to another, with contact varying from protrusions and abutting, to overlap by common white cord, to sharing the backround drawing. The room’s plumbing apparatus even joins into the art. Michel Foucault discusses the idea of convenientia roughly translated as “convenient to”, “in proximity”. Things become convenient to each other when they are close enough to be juxtaposed, and their properties shared. The significance of this relationship is not in the physical proximity, but in less obvious underlying affinities that proximity brings to awareness. Foucault explains that “adjacency is not an exterior relation between things, but the sign of a relationship, obscure though it may be”.

The proximity of pieces one to another causes obscured relationships to reveal themselves. In the objects entanglements and intertwinings once inaccessible concepts of art and art making are now manifest. Pieces with drippy tendrils evoke organic likenesses in art à la Eva Hesse, but without the angst. A framed picture hangs on the wall, its picture plane created by a wrapping of paper that obscures any possible image. And across the room a jumble of orange strings dribble like water onto the floor, issuing from a paper object like a fuse box gone haywire, eventually winding around two pictures frame shapes and puddling on the floor next to them. A room of visual punning and double entendre.

But Skowasch's affinities go beyond the objects placed in the room. She expands them to include the room itself, to expose it as an organism. And this expands to include the viewer within it. As in Foucaults’s convenientia , the resemblances created by Skowasch have much to do with the space in which things exist, and not merely with the things in themselves. The viewers sense that the art addresses them , welcomes them, the room is seen as fitted, a container for the viewer. The artist said that her installation is “a kind of new thing, an expierence”. The gallery becomes not merely a space of holding art but itself the art work, incorporating the viewer into the piece, now made kinetic.

And overarching this, Skowasch links the process of art making and perception back to the body, back to a sense of play and growth and change, and to eventual non-existence. The materials: paper, candy, string, recall the ephemeral objects of childhood and by association, the ephemerality of age itself. Skowasch specifically created pieces that assert their fleeting temporality . They have no substantial weight, and do not hide their madeshift appearance. Unlike precious porcelaines and crystals, which are fragile only in space but not in time, these paper ephemera have little ability to endure and so typically are neither valued nor preserved, easily ruptured or disintegrated their presence simultaneously invokes both existence and imminent destruction. The parallels with the human organism flicker before the viewer.

Skowasch gives her pieces a skin so fragile and associations so germinal they connote a world not meant to be outside, offering a glimpse of something interior, the inner place where art and organism and viewer and viewed eventually all meet.

Review by Leonore Metrick

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