“Colalborations 1998”

Printworks Gallery

When both spouses or life partners are visual artists, negotiating issues such as maintaining one’s individuality and developing support systems can be complex and multileveled, the sort of stuff often passed over publicly in discreet silence. This exhibition invited fourteen artist couples to create a work collaboratively, providing them an opportunity to make overt some of their covert processes. The responses varied greatly, from rather summary interactions (where, perhaps in the interest of privacy, the artists casually interspersed elements of their work) to exercises that created an opportunity to assess the nature of artistic interchange, domesticity, and just what it is that brings and keeps two people together.

In Nancy Spero and Leon Golub’s Warrior from Delos, 1998, it is Spero’s vocabulary that seems in the forefront, though this friezelike work on paper testifies to both artists’ understanding of the dramatic potential of figuration culled from ancient history. Spero’s selection of a Scylla-like figure strides across the image’s center, while Golub’s contribution of a more mute and impassive archaic head assumes a choral position, supportive and attentive to the sea goddess he abuts. A harnessing of vision is made manifest in this project of mutual respect and like minds. Hollis Sigler and Patricia Locke’s 20 Years of Joy, 1998, is a three-panel, linked, hanging construction, cut somewhat like a brooch or an earring of Locke’s design. Across the panels, Sigler painted a spare and fragile tree, interwoven with little birds and dappled with some of Locke’s small gemstones. The title of the work is blazoned along the top, a celebratory declaration of their relationship. Embedded just within the surface is the delicate psychological complexity of human coupling, the precious fragility of love.

In I AM UR ME, 1998, Judy Ledgerwood and Tony Tasset provide a more wry but still touching testament to family life. In this video, Tasset and Ledgerwood are shown sitting at a sylvan summer breakfast with their young son Henry; the three eat bowls of oatmeal and gaze at one another across the table with slightly smarmy familial love. Twittering birds provide appropriately cloying background sounds, along with a news radio station’s soothing updates on weather and traffic. Every several seconds the figures suddenly morph into one another—Henry becomes Judy who simultaneously becomes Tony who simultaneously becomes Henry. Here family is a fluid reality: people living together who literally start to exchange personhood. The thirty-second loop encourages all manner of familial factors (of gender, individuality, generational interplay, parenthood) to be seen as malleable and interwoven, capable of sudden metamorphosis. This kind of amiable and subversive approach hinted at the best possibilities of this entire project, the willingness to acknowledge that the infinitely textured nature of companionship is no small part of the construction of self.

James Yood