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MCLA Gallery 51 features {IN}ANIMATE

06/10/2010

Gallery 51 ShowThis month, MCLA Gallery 51 features an exhibition of works by New York-based artist duo Anna Sacramento and Forest H. Graham. An investigation of ends, deaths, histories, artifacts and memory, {IN}ANIMATE features a combination of book arts processes, printing processes, textile and sculptural mediums to unearth and examine things that once lived.

Graham's screen prints and sculptures are made of materials that range from dinosaur fossils to horse hair to algae blooms.

"I unearth things from my daily surroundings, looking for things with particular aesthetic qualities," he said. "I'm not concerned with good taste or bad taste, just taste. I'm looking for things that have a vital quality."

All of the work in the show starts with an expansion of Readymade, Graham explained.

 "The sculptures are fossils and horse hair among other things displayed in boxes and on pedestals and shelves - small compositions of objects that used to be at the very least part of something sentient. At the opening a guy asked me if I ever felt like Dr. Frankenstein. The answer is yes," Graham said.

According to Sacramento, "He quite literally dug out of or found things on the ground - such as dried-out insects, strange mushrooms and root structures - and repurposed them as ready-mades la Duchamp in environments or displays he created. In my case, I actually wanted to call attention to/ revive a dying art and the symbology that went along with it."

A knitter and a book artist, Sacramento looked for a way to combine the two to tell a story. She decided to "re-animate" the symbols used in the British Isles with Fishermen sweaters that, in the not-too-distant past, carried a heavier meaning. In addition to keeping the men warm when they were at sea, each of the sweaters were uniquely patterned to identify them in case a fisherman died and washed up on shore.

 "I was learning a new knitting technique and a friend's mother told me that they used the technique in Fisherman's sweaters and how those sweaters came to be," she explained. "She gave me a book with all the patterns and I read all about the history of it - some really great apocryphal stuff about epic storms, their casualties and survivors. This was the place I started. Shortly after, I was explaining the kernels of the project to a friend who sent me the Gregory Orr poem. And that's how it all came together."

Sacramento is interested in everyday objects that have deeper roots and once carried heavier weight.

"I am preoccupied by memory - personal and collective and also with the gravity of things -powerful and profound or insignificant and light. I like the constantly shifting importance/ disregard of memories or objects."

Ven Voisey, MCLA Gallery 51 manager, said, "Both Graham and Sacramento approach their art making with a tremendous amount of thought, skill and attention to detail.  Their works come off as simultaneously visceral and conceptual:  the more you find out about the work's layers, the more its beauty tugs at you."

{IN}ANIMATE runs through June 20. MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.