FACETIME #2: John Roach and Gabriela Vainsencher
APRIL 7 – MAY 1, 2011
OPENING RECEPTION: FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011, 6-9PM
above left: Gabriela Vainsencher, Stadium Light Three, 2010, still from video animation
above right: John Roach, Landscape, 2009, still from video
below left: John Roach, Looming Staghorn, 2011, watercolor and collage, 8×10 inches
below right: Gabriela Vainsencher, John’s Fan, 2011, pen and watercolor on clay coated paper, 11×14 inches
Facetime#2 once again brings together two artists from different backgrounds and generations – John Roach, who came to Brooklyn via circuitous routes from far away San Francisco, while Gabriela Vainsencher arrived here by way of Argentina, where she was born, and Israel, where she grew up.
On first encounter, the two artists’ respective practices appear also to be in stark contrast, with Roach being primarily thought of as a sound installation artist, while Vainsencher has invested particular energy in exploring the potential of drawing as an expression of (and antidote to) daily life. John Roach’s practice has come to be centered around objects that relate to sound, whether they are devised to produce them, to transform them, or to react to or with them. The artist’s preoccupation with an interactive element in his work is particularly recurrent, while the cause and effect behind his finished pieces is never limited to functionality alone as it embraces much poetic license and a myriad Fluxus-like digressions and embellishments.
In this way, Roach’s working drawings, for example, might wander off into seemingly unrelated musings, perhaps spawning reveries every bit as philosophical as those often featured in Gabriela Vainsencher’s “Morning Drawings”. In these works, executed each day and posted on the web, Vainsencher juxtaposes motifs – animals and objects, gestures and splashes, as well as text and line. The resulting works can be just as unexpected and puzzling, though often harboring unquestionable truths, as a diagram that John Roach might sketch out in order to help him understand how to connect motion detectors, speakers, magnetic fields and amplifiers so that they will carry out a clearly defined task with whatever mysterious, and evocative results.
Both artists have also seen the making of video works as a valuable complement to their other explorations, and it is here that we perhaps get our first striking impression of some specific common ground, especially as both artists are particularly attracted to the joys of low-tech tinkering, which is completely in keeping with their rather primitive, even visceral relationships, respectively with drawing (Vainsencher) and sound (Roach). At the same time, inviting these artists to exhibit together provoked another (perhaps primal) tendency they both seem to have, which is a garrulous or social desire for sharing, for dialogue, and often for collaboration. In both cases, this comes from a heightened sense of curiosity, as both artists are intensely inquisitive about the artistic practices of others, and the invitation to participate in Facetime#2, sparked off an immediate visual conversation, involving a spontaneous ‘game of associations’ on Tumblr, with each artist adding images in response to the other. Soon, rumors arrived of John baying for “fuel!”, and Gabriela responding by serving up John’s own characters, transformed…
In the context of previous projects, Gabriela Vainsencher has spoken about her interest in “the transportation of an experience from one person to another, using different means of representation”, while John Roach has similarly talked of the importance of collaboration, which means being “invited to embrace uncertainty, expectation and curiosity…never know[ing] who’s in control.” This openness to the input of others, makes for a rich evolution of images and visual sensations, as witnessed on the Tumblr platform, which became a true repository for thoughts, visual reactions and dialogue between the two artists, with the question of authorship and its importance rapidly diminishing.
Both artists seem to be far too excited by the richness of visual language and its infinite potential to be overly concerned with this question. Both have regularly participated in collaborative pieces and the transformation of content and ideas that this welcomes, and both are very clearly interested in notions of translation in the widest sense, in the mutations of language whether written, visual, verbal or sound-based. As the initial improvised conversation on Tumblr developed, it was interesting to see how a kind of language immediately began to evolve, a language necessarily both private and public, ambiguous and specific, abstract and figurative…Images were imported from multiple sources, with no heed for authorship, and these could be assimilated, bounced off, repeated, juxtaposed and/or transformed. (cf: Gabriela Vainsencher’s 2008 series of altered photographs entitled “Other People’s Art”).
As these found and/or altered images found their place alongside drawings and collages by the two artists, their role began to go beyond simply that of acting as catalyst or stimulus. As a result, these images are going to find their way into the exhibition in their own right, once again questioning authorship and its importance to art, just as John Roach and Gabriela Vainsencher began to see their own drawings and exchanges as being ultimately interchangeable, at least in their role as components of the same conversation.
Similarly, when considering the installation of their videos, a discussion immediately occurred concerning the use of a common soundtrack, binding the artists’ films together with a common aural setting. In Gabriela Vainsencher’s video, “Stadium Light Three”, an image of stadium lights interacts with the liquidity of subsequent movements and interventions of paint and color. Vainsencher’s filmic painted gesture parallels John Roach’s use and transformation of reflections in water, with the eye grasping onto the rarely recognizable fragments of our banal surroundings, just as it does when the Stadium lights wash back into view in Vainsencher’s piece.
From the spectators point of view, this exhibition may seem to constitute a challenge to find a few bearings first, but that should be in the context of submitting to participation in a wider network of thought and association, even agreeing to be a part of what John Roach has called “a perfect extension of John Cage’s ideas of indeterminacy”. Why not submit to the endless richness of visual language, where pigeons may or may not have a particular symbolism, and the person wearing the wolf costume (that looks like a bear) may be doing nothing more significant than dancing to the music?