“Now that my ladder’s gone / I must lie down where all the ladders start / In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”
—W. B. Yeats
Nov. 4 – Dec. 2 | Root Division, San Francisco
Opening Reception: Nov. 11, 2017, 7-10pm
Gallery Hours (or by appointment): Wednesday-Saturday, 2-6pm
Love & Longing shares descents into the unknown, artistic responses that perpetuate their own kind of fulfillment—“when the dark becomes another kind of lover” (John Tarrant). Through trying circumstances, a multiplicity of entanglements, and cascading heartbreaks, the works in Love & Longing share a sensibility fraught with loss, and reactions layered over time.
The exhibition includes works that chip—or pound—away at the wall separating art and life—that challenge, complicate, intensify, confront, and grapple with engagement and connection. Drawing upon a wide range of media and conceptual strategies—from the unflinchingly serious to the deadpan, from one-on-one to participatory encounters—the art works selected visually and aurally engage with unlikely, ungraspable hope, and a call for radical empathy and deepening relationships, in our own dark time.
VIEW LOVE AND LONGING CURATORIAL ESSAY
List of Artists:
Moir Clements (1924-2015) with Mel Day and Laurence Upton
Carissa Potter Carlson
Mark Stock (1951-2014) in collaboration with Gary Janis
Linda Mary Montano
EfrenAve in collaboration with Pedro Alvarez Perez
Joel Daniel Phillips
and a curated video sampler by in collaboration with
Jaime Cortez, Michelle Wilson, Christopher Scott, Nadav Assor and other guest artists TBA.
Select installation views (photo credits: Kija Lucas)
Video installation by Linda Mary Montano and multi-media wall works by EfrenAve
A few years ago, I had an extraordinary experience with Linda Mary Montano’s Art/Life Counseling at
Stanford’s Performance Studies International Conference. So I was ecstatic when Montano agreed to share
her Art/Life Counseling sessions as Skype calls on selected Saturdays. These participatory, radically
empathetic services would minister to exhibition visitor-participants-in-need. Unfortunately, though for her
own understandable reasons, Montano can no longer perform Art/Life Counseling for this show. A wall label
notes the withdrawal of the work and marks its absence. In a way, the label “performs” the loss to Love &
Longing’s viewers, and acts as a marker to the exhibition’s own entanglements of love and longing. Perhaps
they are my love and longing, and I invite visitors to read my thank you note to Montano, written shortly
after I engaged with her work (and later published in the Journal of Performing Arts).
While co-organizing an exhibition for the Cubberley Artist Studio Program, shortly after my encounter with
the Stock/Janis works, I discovered EfrenAve’s symbolic and ornate mango-sticker collaborations with his
father, Pedro Alvarez Perez. This collaboration developed as a response to Perez’ health challenges. The
mango stickers merge the love and longing of a son for his father in difficult circumstances along with
layered stories of seasonal workers, drawing connections between the hard labor in the mango groves and the
intense work of creating these collaborations.
Installation view (Left: Moir Clements/Mel Day; Right: Jonn Herschend)
Moir Clements (1924-2015) was a British artist, a Warden in London during World War II, and my
grandmother. She painted scenes from all parts of the British Isles, always in oil paint, and often from the
front of her motor caravan. Early in her career she became discouraged after her work was repeatedly rejected
from exhibitions. She never felt justified calling herself an artist, and, indeed, developed an acerbic disdain for
the contemporary British art establishment. Alongside personal and artistic insecurities and longings (she lost
both parents at a young age), her greatest loss was her failing sight. Moir, as she liked to be called,
collaborated with her grandson, my cousin Laurence Upton, to create a series of paintings. He painted them,
according to her verbal instructions and visual memory—using yellow heavily as the color she could see most
clearly. At Root Division, lying by one of these collaborative paintings is a photograph of Moir’s worn-down
fuchsia Staedtler pencil. She was the last person to use this pencil until I used it to sign her name
posthumously. She was always an artist and is deeply loved.
Jonn Herschend is known for highly deadpan films and written pieces exploring the unrequited yearnings of
the narrator. In the works here, he grapples with another recurring theme throughout his work—the longing
for the ‘forest-office’ and a ‘getting-back-to-the-garden’. This lost paradise of contemplations, of work-spacewith-
a-view, beckons, perpetually out of reach. “Pastoral, No.11 (With Pipeworks)” depends upon neutral,
thick grays, and ostensibly charismatic fluid broad strokes—a wink at Philip Guston’s ostensibly easy going
painterly wit—to depict a fictional narrative with ‘real’ deeply felt melancholy and longing.
Joel Daniel Phillips (left) and Mark Stock in collaboration with Gary Janis (right)
Joel Daniel Phillips draws life-size, meticulously rendered charcoal and pencil drawings of his neighbors as a
way to build relationships and connections within his local community. This exhibition includes two works
from a larger series of drawings of Billy, an itinerant man who grows and sells plants on the streets of
Oakland. Over a number of years, and multiple life-size drawings, the two men got to know each other and
became friends. The drawings created by a (privileged) white artist of a (disenfranchised) black man show us
two men sharing space and company over extended periods of time and the challenges of an individual’s
response to a systemic problem.
Mark Clintberg’s “Not over you”, from 2014-2017, is a pair of posters exploring the spatial and emotional experience of queerness. They ask questions involving bodily position as well as where one ‘stands’ in a
relationship. Clintberg prints the posters in an open edition. Visitors are welcome to have a copy of the poster
and consider their own spatial and emotional position with regards to their own closely held entanglements.
In his 2017 essay “Not over you”, Clintberg asks: are we ever “over” someone? And is this a posterior,
submissive position or a “productive nostalgia or longing that respects and grieves the loss of relationship…?”
‘Not over you’ manifested previously as an illuminated, large-scale neon public sign. The process of making
this work, Clintberg writes, is both “over” and “not over.”
Installation view: Miriam Dym (left), Jillian McDonald (video), Mark Clintberg (poster multiple); Photo credit, Kija Lucas
Jillian Mcdonald explores her enduring romantic obsession with Billy Bob Thornton in two video works
created 14 years apart, projected on opposite sides of the hallway. On one wall is “Me & Billy Bob”, created
in 2003, and on another wall is “Staring with Billy Bob”, created in 2017. In these deadpan videos,
McDonald has digitally integrated clips of herself into intimate scenes with Billy Bob. She explores our
obsessive entanglements with celebrity culture, super-fandom, and our own secret crushes. (I know you have
one. At least, I do.)
Carissa Potter Carlson presents “Perhaps the One & Only Love & Longing Choir” at the opening reception. In this one-time piece, she invites visitors together to sing songs of desire, heartbreak, and hope. During the rest of the exhibit, Potter Carlson invites visitors to quietly attend to a moment of solitude and silence alongside her drawing installation, with their own customized boxed set of earplugs. In these and other works, Carlson grapples with the precarious alchemy of wellbeing and our yearnings to both use our voices and rest in silence and stillness.
Perhaps the One & Only Love & Longing Choir (I Will Survive) Carissa Potter Carlson, Love & Longing from Mel Day on Vimeo.
Peggy Phelan’s 30-minute piece “In the Dark,” was originally performed live at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2010, part of an exhibition of work that could only be experienced without any light. Phelan, a renowned performance scholar, vocalized (spoke, sung, and sometimes hummed) in a lulling, resonant voice about stumbling in the dark, comforting her daughter Laura at night, and about absence, presence, loss, longing, and sleep. For Love & Longing, I provide an armchair and blindfold for visitor-participants to accompany Phelan’s words heard through headphones. The visitor becomes a silent participant of this unscripted ‘dark night of the senses’, alone yet together with others in the gallery.
Read about other works in curatorial essay here >>