Curator Corinna Kirsch brings together artists from the United States and Europe for an exhibition mixing the formal language of minimal and conceptual art with the intimacy of personal cultural memory.
Watch interviews with the artists and curator on SFG4:
In the French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet’s book, The Erasers, a detective shows up in a small town to solve a series of murders; but during his investigation, he pays more attention to objects than to people. As a cover for his inquiries, he searches for an eraser he saw once, years ago; a piece of evidence. Even though he made up this story, he soon begins to doubt himself, thinking that maybe he did, in fact encounter this remarkable object before. And so, he continues his obsessive search for this miniscule object without an origin, without knowing if he has tricked himself about his past.
The works in this exhibition are all ‘erasers’: both objects imagined as something more important and mysterious than their physical shape might suggest and objects which contain the action to efface, censure, and delete the past. An object is never a mere thing, an eraser is never just an eraser. The works in this exhibition act as gathering points for the myriad relationships between humans and the inanimate things that surround us—everything from blankets to the internet. As such complex objects, they reference the past and what has been lost and forgotten through time; but they also emphasize our sociability with objects and how they actively influence us, just as we, in a reciprocal relationship, influence them.
As an eraser deletes, it creates something new. When pop artist Robert Rauschenberg erased a drawing by abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, de Kooning’s original sketch never completely disappeared. Rather than creating a blank page, the marks of Rauschenberg’s eraser changed the texture of the drawing surface but never completely rid itself of de Kooning’s inky shadows. Much of contemporary art practice acts as shadows, like things washed ashore on a beach belonging to someone else’s past.
The different modes of art-making taken on by the artists in The Erasers are rife with attempts to reign in the chaos of a present shot through with holes of the past. The ‘contemporary’ is about time: art historian Terry Smith has proposed that ‘contemporary’ art must embrace multiple and conflicting versions of time that operate simultaneously, an “insistent presentness of multiple, often incompatible temporalities...moving in many different directions: backward traveling, forward trending, sideways sliding, in suspension, stilled, bent, warped, or repeated.” As much as we try to hold onto the past, the present moves forwards and the night continues to fall. And yet, with the night—a sublime blackness—come pathways and pauses for repeated beginnings, however uncertain and misty the present. The past is never so distant, as time grows over and upon itself, a large mass of the past rolled into the present.
By utilizing this secret life of materials, the artists in The Erasers can embrace the stream of dislocations where at any one moment objects, like ourselves, can one be thing and then, in the very next breath, another. This material longing is neither simple nostalgia nor coldly calculated
appropriation. Those explanations would be too easy for works emblazoned with melodrama, humor, and beauty—like a sigh or a gasp of authenticity in the brash, ironic air of contemporary art. These works are as much gorgeous and seductive objects as they are conceptual projects. Conceptually, the works incline toward sentiment and exaggeration. Paranoid notions of irretrievability abound, creating an anxiety that the viewer might be (and, in an art gallery, probably is) merely repeating the actions of another. Time, emotion, and the body commingle in these artworks, rearrangements of active everyday encounters distilled into object.
About the curator:
Corinna Kirsch is a writer and curator currently based in Berlin. From 2009 – 2010 she was the O’Brien Curatorial Fellow at The Weisman Art Museum. In 2010, she was awarded the C Magazine New Critics Prize for art criticism. She received a Master of Arts in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.