Are you a voyeur? This show’s for you

Check yourself
By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  June 26, 2013

art_CallGramma_main

'CALL GRAMMA' Inlaid burnishing clay on panel, 15 by 15 inches, by Adriane Herman.  

For many years, the art of Adriane Herman has dealt with the mundane tasks of daily life, specifically handwritten notes and to-do lists of the quotidian events of others. Years ago, she'd exhibit them like readymades: expired, X'd-off stickies and notebook pages collected through donation or barter that she'd tack in arbitrarily sequences on gallery walls.

As an artistic process alone, this is significant. Found items are one thing, but it takes a certain grace and intimacy to solicit the terms of other people's real lives. (Most artists are content to manipulate inanimate objects.) Invariably, the lists pry open tiny windows into the existence of diverse and nuanced characters — Herman keeps them anonymous — which presented in large quantities can remind of the uniqueness of personal experience and the collective whole while holding up a mirror to our own lives.

It's been an ongoing project, and recently, Herman graduated her lists from ephemera to conventional art objects. Rather than display the found item in raw form, she now uses it as a source image, zooming in on the text until its lines and flourishes split the difference between lexicality and say, a splattery AbEx piece. Then she transfers the image onto a clay plate, which is sanded and burnished until slick with a waxy sheen. This process makes it all pretty, but it also infuses the gesture of exhibiting other people's lives with a separate personal labor, giving a second life, in a way, to actions that were checked off months ago.

"Finish Lines" is a show of fifteen of these plates, each 15 by 15 inches with black text on red (or vice versa). All but one have been culled from a stack of daily tasks and reminders kept by a former studio assistant of the artist over a period of time marked by a female-to-male gender transition. Yet the theme, at least visually, remains largely covert. One plate discernibly contains the word TRANS; most others something far more commonplace, like CALL GRAMMA or RENT. In most, the lines' foremost trait is simply that they came from a human hand.

Is this a sort of voyeurism? Maybe so. Now with a fixed subject on the other end — especially one whose most intensely personal secrets are laid bare at the outset — several of the lists' terms are charged with a significance that wouldn't exist anonymously, such as in the plates titled "Ripped Movies" or "Meat Bank." Peering in on another person has always been a central part of Herman's project, but you couldn't pick them out of a lineup. Now that you could, the effect may be unsettling. Both subject and viewer are personally implicated in ways they never were.

But that's ultimately what I like most about "Finish Lines." Trafficking in topically queer subject matter and the painstaking language of identity politics, it feigns abandonment of the twin clauses of anonymity and collectivity that guide Herman's documentation of human existence in favor of a coded, personally symbolic, cut-and-paste portrait of an undeniably unique individual. But the show doesn't do that. Rather than put a magnifying glass on any margin of otherness, Herman keeps it positioned much closer to us, squinting to find meaning in what appears like apocryphal scribble for simple messages like WORKOUT AT 8:20 or CALL VET. The identity is important, then meaningless: these are merely the rhythms of a human life.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Adriane Herman, Rose Contemporary
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY NICHOLAS SCHROEDER
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   GRAPHIC NOVEL-RADIO PLAY MASHUP COMING TO MERRILL  |  February 26, 2014
    Star Wars
  •   UNMASKING AFRICAN RELICS  |  February 26, 2014
    An evocative, transportive exhibit of icons, artifacts, and spirit masks from some of the many, many cultures and “kingdoms” of West Africa, what is now Cameroon and Nigeria.
  •   THE TEQUILA ODYSSEY  |  February 20, 2014
    Each of the city’s drinking establishments has its roots in some primordial myth.
  •   TRUE EFFIN' ARTISTRY  |  February 20, 2014
    Mousa is the new recording alias of Vince Nez, a/k/a Aleric Nez, the name by which he released a nimble, unpredictable record in late 2010.
  •   THE STATE OF SEA SALT  |  February 12, 2014
    A surfeit of salt manufacturers have cropped up in the state over the last few years.

 See all articles by: NICHOLAS SCHROEDER