8 February - 7 March 2020
Catalyst Contemporary presents Turbid Landscapes, a group exhibition featuring Maren Henson, Gary Thompson, and Marcia Wolfson Ray, whose works bring together the uncertain and shifting views of the natural world, our collective understandings, and the more private, psychological spaces where the natural and social impress upon us in unique ways. Landscapes of yore, with rolling hills and looming mountains, startling sunlight and a bucolic haze, yield instead to faintly illuminated concrete chaos and the intricate inner workings of our cultural and personal connections.
Marcia Wolfson Ray’s one-of-a-kind pine and willow sculptures are collected from the marshes of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The reconfigured sculptural landscape captures the life cycle of the marshes and man’s attempt to control them. The works are constructed from a mixture of burnt and sun-bleached wood. The burnt wood is a result of controlled burns conducted during the winter in order to promote new growth in the spring. By combining the bleached driftwood with the burnt remnants, Wolfson Ray’s sculptures are a stunning mixture of charcoal, bone, and mahogany. This stark contrast illuminates and captures the natural life cycle and the violence that is necessary and inevitable in the natural order. The rigid material, wrought of wood - bound and twisted, is made fluid and speaks of the centuries old traditions of life on the Eastern Shore, encapsulated in both the history and the stories of landowners and slaves that worked those lands. Thus, Wolfson Ray’s works are firm but forgiving, malleable yet unmoving, and act as an archive remade.
Moving beyond the literal and natural environment found in Wolfson Ray’s cultural recreations are Gary Thompson’s black-and-white, surrealist photographs. Through Thompson’s careful and precise collection and digital application of images, he illustrates an anxiety about reality and the structures of society. The built structures in the work, overpasses, steps, and telephone wires, are immersed and hidden in looming shadows. Shot in low-light conditions, Thompson’s pieces utilize the darker side of imagination, a fear of shadow and by extension, a fear of the unknown. The composited photographs were modeled after the structure of Thompson’s dreams and contain numerous figures, almost impossibly hidden throughout the images, requiring studious attention in order to fully experience the image in its entirety.
Diverging from Thompson’s overt characterizations of people in liminal spaces, the rich performative charcoal drawings by Maren Henson highlight our current workplace environments throughout the use and study of alphabets and language. Our capitalist workplace landscape does not consist of traditional structures built to house and protect our bodies. Instead, the modern world has created hierarchal power structures intent on keeping people in the same place, in the same positions, for long periods of time. The artworks highlights the means of interaction between labor and capital that are specifically intended to manipulate labor in order to maintain power and control. Since this social landscape does not consist of a visible structure, Henson utilizes and employs an examination of language in order to create a more intelligible perspective. The black and white drawings imagine workplace landscapes in which many Americans are confined. In these drawings, Henson utilizes her own family history, recounting her father’s experience as a pilot during the 1981 airline strikes where then President, Ronald Reagan, demanded an end to the strike and fired 11,359 air-traffic controllers when they refused to stand down. Here, Henson offers a landscape built out of words from the English language and the velvety but blunt application of carbon on wood pulp.
Turbid Landscapes is a multi-disciplinary exhibition showcasing the ever changing and evolving landscape that we may find ourselves in throughout our lives, or even at any point in our day. Today, we project our own forms onto the landscape through culturally engrained expectations of nature, through states of psychological tension, and by means of utilizing our own physical bodies to manipulate and reinterpret an experience both universal and isolated. These are the new landscapes passed down to us that we must shape for ourselves.