Howl at Novella Gallery
Alicia Gibson, Words Should Be Seen Not Heard, 2015
February 13 – March 8, 2015
Opening Friday February 13, 7PM
First published in 1956, Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem “HOWL” remains an incessant hallucinatory chant on the American psyche. Through a similar lens of excess and depravity today, we focus on the insatiable need to define what is AMERICAN, or what Greil Marcus has called “old weird America”, in works of art that resist a narrowing down, resist a singular identity, and relish the ephemeral wandering spirit.
With titles like “Never Trust a Woman Who Can’t Drink a Forty”, and “Born Again Virgin”, you think you’ve seen and heard it all from Alicia Gibson. Truth is it’s only the beginning. Gibson is a powerhouse whose work is paramount to everything that is good in contemporary painting today. Appearing incapable of reduction or moderation, her paintings fly in the face of modernism’s stubborn legacy, shamelessly and powerfully inserting content to the brim of her surfaces. Her work is an intimate record of lived experiences that need to be relentlessly drawn, collaged, and bedazzled, again and again. I see them as offerings—a response to her need to talk back to the world. Offerings which make her work all the more real.
Alan Crockett’s recent paintings are made of miles of seductively hammered cartoon-like scrawl. This state of “pre-figuration” gives way to a labyrinth of freewheeling frenetic mark-making, whimsical traces of the body, and the feeling you’ve been taken for a ride. His large-scale painting titled Putt-Putt, which can refer to the sound of a car chugging along in early children’s cartoons, is what I imagine you would be able to see while on hallucinogenic drugs. The work is bent on resisting any form of classical organization in favor of a tapestry of improvised marks. Reflexively denying our ability to view the image as a whole, the work’s power is found in continuously traveling through it. Making Putt-Putt a harbinger or what the artist has referred to as “a place that allows for hidden secrets, forgotten memories, and inexpressible sensations.”
As someone who began her career as a performance artist, it easy to see how Clara Crockett’s drawings relish the stage in which her miniature figures are set. Crockett’s Paper Doll, takes the act of drawing and relinquishes it to the viewer, leaving it up to us to imagine how her characters can come to life. In a single row across the page, her small-scaled human and animal figures are vulnerably shown from the front and back views. The edges of her characters are delineated as if destined to be cutout and released from the page. This feeling is intensified by papier-mâché built up to reveal their presence as sensuous bodies. The stage has been set from the beginning. The drawing literally calling on us to make the work whole.
Clara Crockett’s Paper Doll drives a sentiment I hope you will hear thundering throughout all the work in the exhibition. “HOWL” is meant to serve as catalyst that posits more questions than answers. The work of Alan Crockett, Clara Crockett, and Alicia Gibson reminds us to look deeper, search farther. If your arm is stretched out, stories abound. How you will be able to recount them is how the visual experience begins again.
—Steve Rivera (01.06.15)
164 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002