Paper Trails

May 18th - June 1, 2006
at Howard House

Michael Arcega, Cat Clifford, Victoria Haven, Marco Maggi, Nancy Rubins, Andy Warhol, Dan Webb, Franz West
Curated by Gary Owen

Paper is ubiquitous to daily life. Milk pours from a paper carton, splashed over cereal that tumbles from a paper box. A newspaper accompanies this breakfast.

Such an extravagant wealth of material was unthinkable before the modern logging industry made pulp an abundant ground on which to draw. Pre-industrial artists used humble scraps of paper almost reverently, utilizing every inch. Today, an artist may place a single gesture in a vast field of paper, elevating both the gesture and the ground. There are artists whose work embraces either the preciousness of paper, or the prodigious supply, or both. Paper Trails will explore these artists' works, letting each piece dictate which how it is to be read. The condition of inclusion is a surprise factor; do the works surprise because of the way paper is treated? Each work will explore its own paper ness while representing the artist's intent to the fullest. Emphasis will be placed on non-traditional approaches moving away from the two-dimensional.

Born in Manila, The Philippines, Michael Arcega uses humor to draw his viewers into a discussion of the resonance of Spanish colonialism. On view is a "Conquistadork," a life-sized suit of armor made from Manila folders--the pun is obvious. The comic in Arcega adds levity to the high conceptualist. His work is a rich, and deeply layered exploration of colonialism in the 16th century and globalism today. Arcega's sculptures of galleons, armor, and tanks, all fashioned from manila folders, point to the wars being played out on paper in the offices of state. Arcega has been exhibited widely in the U.S., including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, The DeYoung Art Center and The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and The Asia Society in New York.

Cat Clifford's closely studied animations of the flora and fauna around her home on Vashon Island are made with pen and knife. Her innovative approach to depicting motion involves carving away the figure, then drawing the next movement, then carving away again. Birds flit through the air, leaving trails of perturbed paper in their wake. The resulting images become artifacts of process, with ghostly traces of movement trailing behind figures. The traces recall Etienne Jules Marey's photographs of bodies in motion. But whereas Marey's images collapse time and space into one image, Clifford lets the image disappear. Dynamism and simultaneity is replaced with memory and history, giving sweetness to her stories of Crows, ducks, and great blue heron. This is Cat Clifford's first exhibition at Howard House and her work will also be featured in Howard House's newly expanded project space.

Seattle artist Victoria Haven's cut out drawings confound space with a warped, breathing cellular grid. Such works remind the viewer that the painted surface has historically been a space of infinite depth. In Haven's drawings the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane becomes three dimensional, and the viewer becomes aware of the reverse side of the work. On view will be a reflective mylar lightning bolt, its jagged contour cracking with energy. The reverse side of the bolt is colored in pastel hues which reflect off the wall and envelope the bolt in a mysterious glow. Haven has exhibited at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, The Drawing Center in New York, and is in the traveling exhibition "Over and Over: A Passion for Process," at the Austin Museum of Art.

Born in Uruguay and living in New York, Marco Maggi is known for ambitious installations made from thousands of reams of paper, stacked, scattered, and slumped about the gallery. The reams have minute incisions on their surfaces and the flaps of paper are bent into delicate arches and some bewilderingly complex architectural forms. The overall effect is of a cross between the ancient ruins of pre-Columbian civilizations and computer circuitry, suggesting the growing obsolescence of paper in communication. The scores of blank pages alternately serve as reminders of potential expression. Maggi has exhibited nationally and internationally, including biennials in Korea, Havana, Sao Paulo, and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, and many noted private collections.

Veteran Californian artist Nancy Rubins creates monumental and tumultuous sculptures of hundreds of plane parts lashed together. Her sculptures are industrial wreckage spiraling out of control, maelstroms of painted steel and cable. On exhibition is a giant piece of paper treated entirely with graphite so that it appears to be a sheet of buckled, torn metal pinioned to the wall by unseen forces. The graphite drawings are an extension of Rubin's interest in Industrial detritus exhibited on a monumental scale. Nancy Rubins has exhibited internationally, with solo shows at the Miami Art Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Venice Biennale, and The Drawing Center.

Andy Warhol's production spanned countless media, from screen printing to film to his most notable work, himself. On view in Paper Trails is a sheet of his well known Jersey Cows wallpaper made for Warhol's seminal 1971 exhibition at the Whitney. Just as he did to film and the silkscreen, Warhol here elevates wallpaper to the realm of a high art medium. The wallpaper can serve as both a backdrop upon which to hang other work, or as a featured artwork. These dual roles highlight the tension between rarified art object and mass produced consumer object inherent in Warhol's factory made artworks.

Seattle artist Dan Webb marries wicked humor with expert craftsmanship to critically address the foibles of modern life. On view in Paper Trails will be a series of drawings dealing with inability to communicate. Cut out figures declaim their thoughts in text bubbles that are cut into jumbles of tangled paper; has the medium become confused with the message? The characters in Webb's drawings struggle in futility to bridge the gap between dimensions, their 2D bodies aspiring to 3D stature. But as with many of Webb's works, these imply that the complexities of life are insurmountable. Webb has exhibited at galleries across the country and is in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum, Bank of America, and the Altiods Curiously Strong Collection.

Austrian Artist Franz West is a master of the anti-aesthetic. His work, often intentionally unattractive, works on the viewer's body, encouraging physical participation or revulsion. West came of age artistically at the height of Viennese Actionism, when Hermann Nitsch was shocking bourgeoisie culture with grotesque performances utilizing the blood and guts of slaughtered livestock. West turned his back on such histrionics, focusing instead on the psychological effects of his slap-dash creations. On view in Paper Trails will be a small collage painted on newsprint with small bits of paper detritus affixed to the surface. There is not an ounce of preciousness to West's collages, where materials are irreverently treated as limitless in abundance. Such works assert themselves in a rarified environment. West has exhibited widely over three decades including two Documantas in Kassel, Germany, four Venice Biennales, and solo shows in major museums around the globe.