Critics’ Picks

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Teresa Li), 2017, 16-mm polyester film, polyester thread, lithography ink, permanent marker 68 x 46".

Los Angeles

Sabrina Gschwandtner

Shoshana Wayne Gallery
4835 W. Jefferson Blvd.
June 3–August 26, 2017

When Rosalind Krauss wrote in 1979 about grids as one of the mythic structures of modern art, she was clearly not thinking about quilts. But one of her main points—that the grid’s formal regularity represses a spiritual unconscious—is useful for considering Sabrina Gschwandtner’s quilts made from scraps of 16-mm film. The magic of these works is that the geometrical compositions of discards reveal an immanent world of human bodies laboring in tiny images, all lit from behind via light boxes or LED panels. This is no regressive return to the realm of belief, illusion, or fiction that modernism claimed to have banished, though. Rather, these pieces ruminate on film as material and the cinematic image as bearer of the real, encased in polyester and speaking from an earlier time.

The repurposed footage is mostly from educational films about sewing, arranged by color to create what from afar looks like color-blocked square or striped compositions. The entire show is concerned with reevaluating women’s crafts as art. Gschwandtner mastered her process and style for this body of work over a number of years, but two pieces, Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Roderick Kiracofe) and Hands at Work Crazy Quilt (for Teresa Li) (all works cited, 2017), mark a new, more gestural command of the technique. Finally, Hands at Work Video productively explores a tension between mechanical and digital reproduction. Here, the grid has been torqued into a composition of elongated diamonds, a pattern of crisply rendered shapes through which we peer into a world of analog vitality: moving images of hands at work.