It is early Saturday morning when I enter into the modest gallery space of Carter & Citizen to encounter the newest body of work by Los Angeles artist April Street. The space is cool with morning air, the front door behind me is open to the quiet road outside. I am greeted by a large, airy sculpture and four dark paintings on the wall that feel just as they are described: “Black Hole Paintings” that appear so deep I could fall right into them like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole.
Each painting is structurally the same with layers of black nylon hosiery stretched, pulled, rolled, knotted, and tucked under layers of the same. Certain corners of stretcher bar are visible through the sheer material or through the small, eye-shaped holes on the surface of the paintings. A closer look reveals paint and pastels deep within the work in faintly indistinguishable colors that look like printed fabric patterns.
This is where it gets interesting.
In a private performance, Street wraps herself in the nylon and prepares pools of acrylic paint in which she sleeps. It is in this process that she records the space of her body during the lost time of slumber, movement captured in the porous surface of the most feminine material. The resulting marks are high contrast indexes that appear almost photographic. Pinks and purple emanate across the surface. Yet it all remains buried beneath stratum of nylon, barely visible, but provoking second and third examinations of the painterly abyss. In their mystery, they are anchored by their titles, each painting named after stars taken from fiction novels – Antares, Fomalhaut, Betelgeuse, and Vela. They float here but persist in opening a space that remains distant.
Two sculptures accompany the paintings. In “Carving 100, Six in my bed,” bronze meat hooks attach to the ceiling, holding a wiry installation of waxed silk and 100 bronze birthday candles that are anchored to the ground by six soap stones. The stones are from the Appalachian Mountains, where Street grew up, and were used by Cherokee Indians to carve jewelry and weapons. In juxtaposition to the paintings, the sculpture recalls the nylon performance work of Senga Nengudi, and evokes a fragile and violent romanticism.
The last piece is “Cassiopeia loves Grimaldi,” two bronze collars directly attached to the wall. These provocative works are reference to Elizabethan collars but double in their natural appearance as mushrooms. Intricately lined on the top side, and with a cushiony looking bed on the bottom side, they might just be ready to eat or be worn, depending on the mood. What’s more, the half-moon shaped collars reference the Grimaldi moon crater, creating a playful state between Elizabethan era bondage and a phantasmagoric trip to outer space.
Tying the work together is the exhibition’s title, “A Vulgar Proof,” meaning a common experience in Elizabethan English. That experience might be of bondage or liberation but its one of that Street creates out of ideas of magic and fantasy. Her world has an energy of duality that pulses back and forth between the here, now, and the potential for a different future ahead, all the while leaving you wondering if this feminine universe begins or ends in the black hole of a hallucinogenic trip.
“A Vulgar Proof” is on view through February 15th, 2014.
For more information visit Carter & Citizen, Los Angeles.
By Gladys-Katherina Hernando
Previous previews by Gladys-Katherina Hernando: