Walking into Danielle Rante’s first exhibition at K. Imperial Fine Art is like stepping inside a personal travel journal. Held In Air is a body of work that the artist created while on residency in northern Iceland. On-site field research and geographical events inform her practice and, in this case, Rante examines the experience of imagining and then undertaking her trip to this distant country. Layering such media as cyanotypes, screenprint, gouache and hand cut paper, she presents landscapes with the materiality of dioramas, star maps that capture the passage of time and dreamlike meditations on space and place. Before setting foot in Iceland, she created the ethereal diptych “The Idea of North”. Exploring the disconnect between imagined and actual experiences, Rante crafts a ghostly ink and carbon transfer landscape. Scores of tiny vertical marks resolve themselves into semi-solid landmasses, a translucent bay and barely there cloud forms.
The small size of the gallery forces an intimate exhibition but even the show’s smallest works have a grandiosity belying their scale. Rante’s Icelandic Meditations combine methodical carbon transfers with obsessive hand cut paper. When the artist describes, “a glimpse of a more spacious, un-tethered awareness,” she may be thinking of this series in particular. Suspended in their frames like small curtains across a view, the works ask to be viewed up close. The few large-scale pieces in the exhibition provide drama and the same pleasure of losing oneself in the act of looking. “Skagaströnd Wish 65°82′N 20°30′” is a many-paneled cyanotype made with wildflowers the artist picked from the fields near her residency. The botanicals are mapped to the position of the stars in the sky on the summer solstice. There is a poetical quality to this abstracted map of the one evening when the sun doesn’t set and the stars never come out.
By incorporating geological events and past happenings into her work, Rante adds an order of magnitude to Held in Air. In “Hekla and Katla: Two Orbs of Buried Stars,” overlays star maps from the 1700s to recent years coinciding with eruptions of these two volcanoes. The cyanotypes in this piece are made with lava rocks from the base of Eyjafjallajökull, one of the country’s smaller ice caps. These layered snapshots of the night sky across several centuries become a sort of frozen stop-motion film. Returning some mystery and magic to travel, the artist examines the applicability of pre-departure daydreams while rethinking traditional souvenirs (from the French for the verb “to remember”). The internet can tell us much about a place before we ever arrive, but it cannot predict our emotional response to a new landscape, much less tell us when the volcano will next erupt.
The exhibition has been extended through September. For more information visit here.
-Contributed by Ariel Rosen