Here are some photos of my group show, Monuments and Ruins, with Nathan Vernau, Morgan Sims, and Jeff Prokash.
Here is a bored child at my art opening. This one is my favorite.
Jeff Prokash and Gwendolyn Zabicki heighten our awareness of the barriers that divide
interior from exterior space, separating narratives of domestic life from those that
circulate in the public sphere. They help foreground a primary concern in our collective
work: the boundaries between unavailable and uncommunicable narratives.
Even in densely populated urban settings, we cordon ourselves off from the world in our
homes. We hide from each other in plain sight, engaged in intimately emotional dramas.
Although the light that emanates from Zabicki’s houses can suggest warmth within, it
doesn’t communicate details about these dramas. Her windows never let us see inside.
Prokash comes at this paradox—that the light of the home illuminates without providing
insight—from a different angle. In his case, we see directly through interiors. Caught
between construction and inhabitation, his model homes reveal nothing about the lives
that will fill them. In the absence of homeowners, the spaces that Prokash and Zabicki
present seem uncannily empty. We peer inside and find a hollowness into which we
project tension, loneliness, and isolation. When the task of filling the homes with
narrative falls to the viewer, ordinary spaces become scenes of portentous anxiety.
One might suggest that the figures depicted by Nathan Vernau populate the spaces that
Zabicki and Prokash construct—that they embody fears about the secret weirdnesses
of unseen ordinary life. Perhaps if we could see inside, we’d catch Vernau cartwheeling
across his floor. They voice what we’re nervous about stumbling upon in anonymous
domestic spaces: that other people engage in role-playing fantasies of emotional
release, and we’re the only ones comporting with Norman Rockwellian norms.
But they also provide a counterpoint to Zabicki and Prokash. Using established
narratives of masculine identity, they suggest how hard we work to communicate
meaning to one another. The distress in Vernau’s self-portraits conveys a failed desire
to be understood despite constant effort. Regardless of our best efforts, we only convey
part of ourselves, or try to play roles and come up short. Empty houses and lighted
apartments confound our attempts to learn something about the individuals inside, but
Vernau reveals the difficulty of presenting a concrete account of self, even when we do
try to come out of our private spaces to speak.
Morgan Sims doesn’t help us solve this problem—that we’re stuck between not knowing
and not being able to say what we mean—but he does warn us against complacency
with respect to it. In the absence of engagement in each other’s lives, the project
of meaning-making gets co-opted by corporate narratives, marketing copy, and
readymade definitions of the good life. All of this jargon amounts to so many shards of
neon, an echo of the holiday lights in Zabicki’s work. Sims compels us to shore different
narratives against what is otherwise ruinous isolation.