“Actualize”

Ortega y Gasset Projects
363 Third Avenue
January 11, 2014–February 15, 2014

Mónica Palma, Song No Lyrics, 2011, ink on paper, 38 x 50".

“Actualize,” a group exhibition of seven artists, explores boundaries between thought and action, mining the various means by which meditation can be translated from an abstract method of self-reflection to a means of artistic practice. The act of prolonged contemplation is evoked through a range of media and extends to the gallery space itself, which invites various degrees of interaction with the works on display, from bound texts that require concentrated perusal to a sound installation that is understood through durational experience. Taken as a group, the works reinforce the significance of meditation as an innovative way of both producing and experiencing art.

While several pieces reference the actualization process through narrative—such as Rachel Cohn’s figurative sculpture that shows, in miniature, participants in a religious séance—others more elliptically suggest progressive mental transformation. The exhibition includes two drawings by Mónica Palma that are based on the artist’s experience with patterns—from television episodes to crochet patterns—which are translated through repeated mark-making on sheets primed with color fields. The result are large-scale negative drawings wholly composed from intricate, spidery lines. The repetition seen in the two drawings recalls several important historical precedents—namely, the graphite works of Agnes Martin and the subconscious facture of Surrealist automatism—and updates them through a subtle reference to the banality of current technology.

Other works illuminate the process, rather than the product, of actualization. A collaborative video and sound piece between Kianna Alarid and Ben Kinsley, Calling Occupants, 2013, shows Alarid, cloaked in a white robe, standing in the middle of an empty stage and chanting mantras of energy transformation. The film is grainy in the way a surveillance video, which contributes to a sense of voyeurism that enhances the viewer’s outsider status and suggests the personal nature of meditative transformation. Simultaneously, the repetitive, musical chants—projected throughout the gallery space, with a force that contrasts with the video monitor’s diminutive size—envelop and draw in the spectator. This unexpected, jarring, and, eventually, hypnotic synthesis experientially reinforces the exhibition’s emphasis on sustained concentration as a means of formal, contextual, and, ultimately, personal transformation.

— Britany Salsbury