Ambivalent, sensitive and slow, the works in neither carry messages disseminated through barriers: skin, windows, visual representations of internal narratives and invented realities. The exhibition brings together a variety of mediums by Robert Gober, Lukas Luzius Leichtle, Andrew Sendor, and Grace Woodcock that explore the representation of something happening behind the scenes or under the skin. Inviting the viewer to peek in, parsing greater meaning and interpreting reality with the visual cues presented, sometimes distorting, misconstruing, and fetishizing the meaning along the way. What is left is the art itself, the threshold that unites artist and viewer, the conduit that eternally demarcates the boundaries between private and public, internal and external.
While stylistic similarities and subject matter connect some works in the show, the overall range is rich and assorted. Challenging the viewer’s understanding of reality is Robert Gober, who has created paintings, prints, drawings, and meticulous, handmade sculptures for over five decades. Often portraying everyday objects and symbols, in particular sinks and windows, Gober explores how commonplace items have manifold meanings. A common thread that connects all four artists in the show is that subjects are not quite what they appear to be. For Gober, works like beeswax legs, a wedge of cheese covered in human hair, and ordinary sinks ignite the imagination, causing the mind to spin in countless directions as the viewer tries to find meaning while working through the everyday associations.
Windows feature prominently in Gober’s work. A literal opening that punctuates otherwise visually impenetrable surfaces, windows suggest to the viewer that they are being offered a glimpse into something hidden behind. The window is a symbol of the boundary between private and public. Gober often includes prison bars in his windows, raising questions of who, or what, is trapped, and what it even means to be free.
Exploring the line between private and public is Lukas Luzius Leichtle, who focuses on the boundaries of the body. The outside of the body, specifically the skin, reveals externally our internal, often private, processes. Blushing confesses shame or embarrassment, goosebumps manifest coldness or fear. “The link between internal processes having an effect on the outer presence of an individual is particularly of interest to my practice as a painter,” Leichtle explained. He often emphasizes the tenderness of skin with thin layers painted to capture the lusciousness and variation of skin tone. He explores themes of shame and identity, using the body as prop that is contorted and exaggerated as if in a performance.
His works in neither include highly realistic ears flushed red with blood. In one painting, an ear is seen poking through a hole cut out of a piece of surgical paper. Narrowing in on the ear, a visible representation of auditory receptors and the sense of hearing, Leichtle, explores the relationship between physiological functions and societal connotations of the body. He touches on notions of fetishism and sensuality. Though a symbol of the ordinary, unsexy act of hearing, the ear is also associated with arousal. The orifice of the ear is both biological and sexual, as is the flushing skin. Leichtle’s subjects serve as a channel for the body to experience internally what happens externally, and bare visible evidence of the internal activity. The viewer becomes a witness and a voyeur, peeking behind the curtain of the barrier between form and function.
This notion is at the core of Andrew Sendor’s work, which includes paintings and drawings of fictional characters rendered with remarkable draftsmanship. He paints invented narratives that he scripts produces, documents, and sometimes stars in. His paintings, typically oil on matte white Plexiglas, aim to capture the essence of specific moments in these narratives. Sendor builds monochromatic compositions using acute pictorial focus along with disrupted visual motifs, and situates the works in artist’s frames whose physicality elevates the painted imagery — and which together comprise an idiosyncratic language of painting. neither includes one new painting, three new drawings, and a highly regarded, 13-minute film FENOMENO from 2014.
Sendor’s meticulous precision grounds his work solidly in photorealism, a fact that belies the fictional origin of his subjects. How can these characters be anything but real? His work piques curiosity, but gives the viewer only a glimpse into specific moments in the narrative. What the viewer sees is the final step of a much larger creative process. Each work is its own conduit to glimpse into Sendor’s performative, cinematic, fictional narratives.
Visually confounding are the sculptures by Grace Woodcock. Taking the form of bulbus, curvaceous, and spiral sculptures, her works represent internal feelings or actions. Designed first using technology such as CAD, her creations are then transformed into wood models that she covers in taut fabric. Their surfaces resemble skin or an external barrier like an exoskeleton. Like Leichtle, the limits of the body and the sensations received internally and externally are at the heart of Woodcock’s practice. Her works in neither include radial, vortex shapes that explore how species grow, adapt, and coexist as they are pulled by external forces.
“I’ve been trying to simulate a sense of growth and movement, a kind of a biological quivering, a fluidity that we can feel in our inner processes and see in the world,” she explained. “All of these processes, both in us and in the world, are affected by the gravitational pull of the earth and the electromagnetic forces.” Woodcock gives a physical appearance to forces both internal and external. The viewer is reminded of their own physicality and biological makeup. Her works recall skin and orifices, both of which bare layers of connotations–the demarcation between inside and outside, the barrier that is viewed, touched, affected, and judged by external forces.
All four artists in the show create works that instantly prompt myriad questions. Touching on themes of privacy, shame, theatricality, and the body as a barrier to the outside world, the artists in the show make the viewer both voyeur and participant, with the art itself acting as a conduit. neither is both an invitation into the artists’ minds and a public visualization of private thoughts and processes.
words by Annabel Keenan