“Remembering, rather than simply repeating something that is fixed, yields the contingency of the trace, attributing potentiality to it once again. We don’t necessarily have to know the origin of the trace, since memory is also reconstruction.”

-Michael Newman from Analogue, Chance, and Memory

I imagine waking up on a mundane morning. My schedule is free and nothing is urgent. Before I’m fully awake, dreams fizzle or fragmented memories bubble up. Psychological residue greets me at my return to consciousness. Likewise, The Moon and Serpent at Orgy Park is a show that lingers from the past when you’re quiet. Ashley Garrett, Emily K. Davidson, and Mike Olin present a show about personal and collective memory.

Emily Davidson’s Fade to White is something out of a disturbing dream. It’s a monstrous, pale-fleshed form of compressed digits –one hand and one foot– growing out of what might be an upper jaw. Streaks of high key green and purple opposing darker gray areas give some volume to an otherwise flat form. Warm pink at the extremities suggests blood still pumping under the skin. It’s the kind of object that might make narrative sense in a dream world, but whose plausibility of existence quickly fades when you exit that world. The patchy red and green background with obscured bright teal rectangular forms indicates a specific setting, but –like so many specifics in a memory– the referent is lost.

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Emily K. Davidson, Fade to White, 2015

oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

photo courtesy of Orgy Park

Her painting Daylight Walkout is less decipherable and straddles the line between figuration and abstraction. It’s like a dream that’s becoming tougher to recall. A sheer curtain hangs over a window. Geometric forms hover in front. A small swirl pattern stitched across the middle of the curtain merges with what might be a distant mountain range in the distance. But interpretation of the forms are questionable. Shapes interact to tease your eye across the picture plane, but don’t provide you with very much information. You’re pretty sure you’re standing in front of a window. Everything else is trying to assemble itself.

Emily K. Davidson, Daylight Walkout, 2016

oil on panel, 48" x 34"

photo courtesy of Orgy Park

Two ancient symbols of apprehension at night appeal to nightmares of collective memory in Mike Olin’s Bat 1. He focuses our attention on the translucent wing of a flying bat passing in front of a full moon and a moonbow. The agile bat would be difficult to spot if it weren’t passing over a light source, reminding us of our inadequate vision and corresponding vulnerability in the dark. The hint of a red eye and the suggestion of bat skin with a few thin paint strokes makes the experience all the more tactile.

Mike Olin, Bat 1, 2015

oil on canvas, 15" x 11"

photo courtesy of Orgy Park

His paintings often include recognizable symbols and bits of detritus like you might find on any Bushwick sidewalk. His work rhymes with the subway, street grime and graffiti. One painting divided into quarters includes strange symbols and a sketch of Yoda. It reminds me of flyers attached to temporary wooden walls around New York construction sites or MTA change of service notices. In Red Sea, random bits of trash hold on beneath a radiant glaze of transparent color and at the margins of the painting. I think of a wet Bushwick street corner after a summer shower or what a street sweeper might leave behind. The glazed gradient lends a sense of depth to the abstract painting.

Mike Olin, Red Sea, 2015

oil on canvas, 48" x 62"

photo courtesy of Mike Olin

Another piece in the show that may have something to do with streets is Ashley Garrett’s Asphalt. I might not have thought so without the title. With it, the teetering white form at the top of the painting becomes one of the bastardization-of-design condos that are being erected all across Brooklyn. This monument of gentrification hovers over a street that hasn’t yet been cleaned.

 

Ashley Garrett’s paintings function like memory itself –embellished and losing detail. They’re like cassette tapes that have been played one too many times. Some paintings are more clear than others. Trotter is a painting of a yellow prize ribbon –itself an embellishing marker meant to memorialize an accomplishment. In this painting, the importance of the symbol is less about a specific event than it is about a certain kind of personal object that indicates lived experience. We know there was more to the story, but the information is absent if not lost.

Ashley Garrett, Asphalt, 2016

oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

photo courtesy of Ashley Garrett

Ashley Garrett, Trotter, 2015

oil on canvas, 6" x 9"

photo courtesy of Ashley Garrett

Cardinal is a faint memory in its final stages. There are handrails for steps and a washed out drawing of a cardinal. Besides that, we get the visual equivalent of unplaceable scents and emotions. We’re left to enjoy shifting color and shape relationships. A dark purple angled shape cuts down from the top left and exerts pressure on a red form beneath the highest contrast area in the painting. The force undulates and disperses towards the right, beneath patches of white, earth red, pale green, and the image of a pale cardinal. The eye drifts lower right like watching floating trash riding a gentle wave towards a retaining wall. Then up through a large bifurcated red and white shape, past a green arrow to flecks of dark green and red in a yellow patch before the return trip left through the top handrails, completing the gentle swirl.

 

The paintings in The Moon and Serpent approach the concept of memory from complimentary angles. The show is at its best when you can spend time with it to let the pieces open up and speak to one another. It’s full of moments that trigger the past, mumble behind you, or float by on the street.

The Moon and Serpent installation view

photo courtesy Orgy Park

Scott Robinson is an artist in Brooklyn, NY and the founder of Painting Is Dead

The Moon and Serpent

March 18 - April 17, 2016

 

Orgy Park

237 Jefferson Street 1B

Brooklyn, NY 11237

 

Hours

open by appointment

Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors, owner, advertisers, other writers or anyone else associated with PAINTING IS DEAD.