Molly Krom Gallery is a newcomer on the Lower East Side: it moved here from Beacon, Upstate New York, a little more than a year ago. The gallery mostly works with emerging artists or artists who have not exhibited much in New York – such as Elise P. Church, whose show is on view until this Sunday. Titled “More, I need more…,” the exhibition is Church’s first solo in ten years, and it has a freshness, and a vigor, that makes it stand out from among the many concurrent shows in the neighborhood.
The exhibition includes paper collages, sculptures, an installation, and a video – but even a cursory glance at the works makes it obvious that Church is first and foremost a collage artist. Her collages vary in size from 2.5 to over 50 in. across; some of the smaller pieces are framed, others are fixed directly to the wall. They combine found materials such as wallpaper, old photographs and illustrations, with bits and pieces of paper painted and marked by the artist. Church’s primary method is stacking: many of her works appear to have grown from the center outward through the accumulation of paper fragments in successive rows. The resulting compositions are varied, but they share the palette of soft pastel colors and a peculiar delicacy of touch suggesting that each of the individual scraps of paper was handled, felt and moved about with great care and tenderness.
Even though the artist calls herself a formalist, the main impact of her collages comes not from the purely abstract relationships of colors, shapes and textures, but from the specific character of the materials she employs: the drab patterns of old-fashioned wallpaper, the patina of aged photographs, the creased and stained surfaces of cut-up drawings and paintings, which seem to have been pushed around the studio for years before finding their way into an artwork. The wallpaper and photographs found at flea markets are especially heavy with vague memories of domestic spaces, family experiences, and private sufferings. The most reductive of Church’s works, small photo-collages or “Pairings”, are each made of just two fragments of photographs, their calculated understatement creating a poignant emotional effect. In “Pairings: Boardwalk Curtain”, for example, a cut-out piece of brown boardwalk is glued on top of a black-and-white photograph of a seated woman, leaving visible only her knee and a hem of her flower-patterned dress. But even those collages, that have few or no recognizable material references, have the contemplative softness of a half-forgotten memory, and a poetic, slightly wistful mood. Church’s peculiar gift is her ability to animate even the dullest of the materials, transforming these materials into highly personal works, some of them as intimate as diary entries.
The exhibition continues with a video piece titled “Waterfalling” – a looped recording of several empty plastic bottles and balls bouncing in the water at the edge of a small artificial waterfall. The pleasant immediacy of this work, its gentle poetry, as well as the colors and textures that relate to many of the collages, make the video a natural continuation of the artist’s practice; the aesthetic and conceptual affinity of works created in such different mediums suggests a developed sensibility and a consistency of vision. A few sculptures made of found objects and an installation in a corner of the gallery appear less resolved. The installation especially seems like a daring foray into a new territory; it consists of a few dozens of cardboard pieces titled “Monoliths” lined up against two adjoining walls and each other. Even though this “stacking” method works well in collages, it does not do much in a way of transforming the collection of “Monoliths” into an effective sculptural installation, despite the fact that some of the pieces are individually appealing. To extend her practice in three dimensions, the artist will need to search for different ways of articulating spatial relationships. These minor shortcomings, however, do not compromise the overall strength of the exhibition. The decision to present works in different mediums and at different stages of development provides the viewers with a dynamic view of Church’s practice as it evolves and transforms, covering new territories. With so many exhibitions offering frozen images of artists’ achievements in the form of objects with no history and no hints of future development, observing Church’s thought process, experimentation and growth is both instructive and invigorating.
Elise Church: More, I Need More…
53C STANTON STREET
NEW YORK, NY 10002
January 10 – February 22, 2015
Opening: Sunday, January 11, 6-8pm
Article by Tatiana Istomina
Photography provided by the gallery and the artist