Art Review Series

The Disappearing Artist

by David Gibbs

Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Katy Moran exhibition attempts, conceptually, to eliminate Moran from the work. Society at large, terrain, and the objects that have filled the subject matter of still-life are some of the ways she forces the idea of the individual out from its own abstraction, despite the Abstract Expressionist’s influence. In a time when self-independence is of the highest priority, when the self dominates subject matter most, Moran attempts to break from this mass desire for individualism by striving to express a altered model of the self that is obscured, and therefore cutting free of this post-war trend.

No signatures, no paintings have a name, few canvases are finished only using paint. Mostly they are collages of materials undisguised, giving complexities to the non-self items (a tree, geometric forms) painted so loosely they almost, and at times do, loose that common quality that aides us in their identification. Overall, there is nothing vibrant about the colors, they are earth tones that when mixed by wide brushstrokes or in frenzied layers, only darken.

The self is absorbed into the work as an emigrant is absorbed into a city, which too is utilized. Torn and overlapping layers of collage resemble overused and decaying billboards. Gum-like substances bead near corners and edges on a few pieces, as if the public had participated in the project. This pseudo-invitation is one of the most interesting aspect of the exhibition, that is, the fake public dissolving the individual, or even traditional forms dissolving the individual to the history of art, the centuries old timeline that no one can survive.

Despite the landscape’s accessibility the natural imagery and city-scape-surfaces feel arbitrary, as if these monumental structures could never liberate a constant awareness of the self. The controlled quality of the nearly haphazard strokes suggest the haziness of thinking, of murky images forming from an aged memory, as if Moran were trying to channel a painting she had seen and mostly forgotten, and consequentially directing herself away from the self. The gallery’s statement characterizes her work as “allow[ing] for the slippage of theory in to the intensity, irrationality and violence of letting go,” despite the limitation set by aiming to let go, that is becoming better connected with the unconscious self. The desire to rebel is courageous of Moran, although it feels sometimes forced by this unending problem of ego.

Moreover, the sense of forthright communication obscures as the self and society awkwardly function together. Often divisions are thrust upon the viewer through torn and folded-out collage layers of magazine fragments. Strips of canvas interrupt the underlying paint and a fabric that looks like a dull brown and white static draws the attention away from the rest. The tension between the two seems manageable, and not overwhelming by the modestly sized frames, as if this issue was not as urgent as the brushstrokes imply.

However the understated size, Moran seems to want communication with a variety of people, from those accustomed to street images, to art scholars, and to those preferring the middle or upper class lifestyles, as hinted with the use of a newly varnished wood floor panel as a canvas, while expressing an unresolved imbalance with today’s trends.

This exhibition by Katy Moran can be seen at the Andrea Rosen Gallery, from May 5-June 11, 2011.

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