Critics’ Picks

View of “day wears,” 2012.


Aleana Egan

Douglas Hyde Gallery
Trinity College Nassau Street
June 1 - July 18

In her 2011 exhibition at London’s Drawing Room, Aleana Egan turned to literary texts, including Jean Rhys’s novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939), as sources of inspiration for her spare and elusive work. In “Local Curiosities,” Egan’s recent collaborative publication with Pádraic E. Moore, she quotes from Virginia Woolf, among others, and it is the Woolf reference that seems most apposite in this exhibition, “day wears.” In The Waves (1931), Woolf asks, “What is the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing?”; this is a question at the core of Egan’s current artistic preoccupations.

Created on a somatic scale, these post-Minimalist sculptures are eclectic in their artistic antecedents. There are echoes of Robert Morris and Eva Hesse; a possible Brian O’Doherty influence is discernible in Egan’s use of material to “draw” in three-dimensional space. One can find something of Joseph Beuys in her felt-based works, for example in the sculpture It is noon and one of them wanders off, 2012, in which rough steel and plaster shapes lie on sheets of roofing felt, like relics of a life left scattered on twin abandoned beds. Room after room, 2012, is a set of three steel humps, gently undulating, the softness of the line belied by the medium. Here one thinks of Beverly Semmes—the mounds resemble her hanging dresses, outlined in metallic form.

These pieces are complemented by found objects: a discarded shirt, its buttons missing; a 1936 pamphlet from the Royal Irish Academy regarding the discovery of two ancient burial sites; a mezzotint of Maria Gunning, one of the famous eighteenth-century Irish sisters who went to London and married noblemen. Together, the fragments create space for the realization that feeling, indeed being, is built up from incomplete histories and memories. They also build a determined protest against the desire for completion, definition, or any single and ultimate meaning.