Staring At The Sun

April 26, 2014 - June 21, 2014

Curated by Craig Drennen

  • Eleanor Aldrich
  • Lauren Silva
  • Jane Fox Hipple
  • Bonnie Maygarden

SALTWORKS is pleased to present, Staring at the Sun, curated by Craig Drennen, is the premier SALTWORKS exhibition and Atlanta debut for artists Eleanor Aldrich (Knoxville, TN), Jane Fox Hipple (Montgomery, AL), Bonnie Maygarden (New Orleans, LA) and Lauren Silva (Brooklyn, NY). The exhibition is comprised of abstract painting, works on paper and sculpture.

In 2004, the Brooklyn band TV On the Radio recorded Staring At the Sun as the second song on their second album. The first line of the song begins, “Cross the street from your storefront cemetery…”

From Egyptian pharaohs claiming the bloodline of Amun-Ra to Louis XIV proclaiming himself the Sun King, the sun has ruled firm atop the creative imagination. More recent science describes the sun as an absolute limit of a different sort, since it is the sun that will eventually expand and destroy the earth. Or as Jean-Francois Lyotard put it “…after the sun’s death there won’t be a thought to know that its death took place.”1 To stare at the sun is to look at the impending, permanent end.

Since early in the 20th century, abstraction has also carried within it the seeds of its own demise. Reductive trends ignited in Europe and Russia by 1920 anticipated a future endpoint beyond which art could no longer be reduced. The embrace of abstraction contained the gravitational pull toward an impending reductive end. In that environment both the studio and the museum could come to resemble the “storefront cemetery” from the song.

But what if that’s too simple? What if there are new contemporary painters not confounded by abstraction’s latest endgames, the “provisional” or the “casual”? What if these painters could “stare at the sun” and receive the conditions of growth, rather than the promise of destruction? This Saltworks exhibition brings together four such painters who see abstraction as much more than an asymptotic disappearing act. Instead, these painters use abstraction as an imaginative practice that allows them to form new relations to the world.

Eleanor Aldrich makes paintings with an aspirational tone where abstract marks, shapes, and lumps of paint aggregate to become something they are not. In one case a modernist grid of paint may be repurposed as fishing net, while elsewhere a smeared perimeter brushstroke surrounds a rice dispersion and asks viewers to believe it’s a television.

Jane Fox Hipple builds paintings whose abstract properties often default to the literal conditions of their bruised materials. The painted objects are visibly acted upon through punctures, cutouts, or draping, complicating their status as paintings by a continual assertion toward the real.

Bonnie Maygarden uses deceptive techniques to leaven the self-referential flatness of late modernist painting with the emotional coolness of a screen-based experience. The very shapes of her paintings sometimes suggest Photoshop cropping tools, belying their careful handmade production.

Lauren Silva populates her paintings with abundant abstract shapes that collide, overlap, and entwine within a theatrical pictorial space. The inscrutable inventiveness of the shapes is made relatable by real world familiarity provided by volumetric modeling and cast shadows.

1. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans. G. Bennington & R. Bowlby (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 9

-Craig Drennen

Craig Drennen is an artist living and working in Atlanta, GA. He is represented by Saltworks in Atlanta and Samsøn gallery in Boston. He teaches at the Welch School of Art & Design at Georgia State University. His works are in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA; Telfair Museum, Savannah, GA; North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks ND; and multiple private collections.

Eleanor Aldrich holds an MFA in painting from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she currently resides. She was a 2012 participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She has been awarded an Endowment for the Arts through the Whiteman Foundation, and the Herman E. Spivey Fellowship. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Drawing Center, New York.

Jane Fox Hipple holds an MFA from Tulane University. She was a 2009 participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Hipple was the recipient of the 2007 Vermont Studio Center Partial Fellowship Award. Her work has been reviewed in numerous publications, including Artforum, New American Paintings Blog and Whitehot Magazine. Hipple lives and works in Montgomery, Alabama.

Bonnie Maygarden is a 2014 MFA candidate at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA where she currently resides. She and holds a BFA from the Pratt Institute. Maygarden has exhibited in New Orleans and at the Université Lumière, Lyon, France. Her work was recently featured in New American Paintings.

Lauren Silva holds an MFA from Columbia University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2011. She earned a BA summa cum laude in Studio Art with a minor in Theater from UCLA. Roberta Smith of the NY Times recently called her “a painter to watch” as her painting exhibits “astuteness and aplomb.” She writes, “Ms. Silva’s elaborately layered compositions force various techniques, styles and spatial notions into carefully orchestrated collisions.” Silva lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.