Investigation Through Reduction: A Review of Carris Adams and Kate Conlon

Cody Tumblin, New City, June 5, 2019
Artists Carris Adams and Kate Conlon present individual solo exhibitions at Goldfinch Gallery in Garfield Park that investigate their subjects through reduced forms by means of drawing and sculpture. Although the exhibitions stand apart from one another in nearly every avenue of content, form and material, I was struck by how similarly the exhibitions celebrate and embrace the absence of language and invite the viewer to complete an unfinished dialogue.


In the front room, Adams' exhibition "Double-Talk" displays five framed thirty-by-forty graphite drawings on paper and one painting on vinyl lined with grommets. The drawings each feature a void in the shape of storefront signage, untouched white paper surrounded by heavy layers of graphite marks and erasure. The forms, although blank and reduced to empty vessels, are still recognizable as signs (including a liquor store and beauty supply sign), with their familiar geometries suggesting a contained phrase or word. Adams' mark making is gestural, quick and expressive. The heavily layered assembly of many chattering marks in each drawing have an expressive energy that holds the idea of a sign in place for just a moment, pressing against and embracing its memory.


"Untitled (Queen Beauty Supply)," a pyramidal form centered on the paper with its bottom half a legible Q-U-E-E-N, stands out among the drawings. This work emulates a certain artificial light, due to its stark white form surrounded by a dense, undulating cloud of heavy gaussian marks that fill the surface edge-to-edge. You can almost feel its neon glow fill the room in perhaps fuchsia or radiant lemon yellow, or hear its faint electric hum. Underneath the image, Adams has delicately written "BEAUTY SUPPLY" in graceful, thin marks, each varying slightly in value, some letters formed by erasing the background.


In the back room, Conlon's exhibition "BOOK THAT IS ALSO A BOOKEND" is filled with minimal plywood sculptures that feel both utilitarian and enigmatic in purpose. A large table with a scattering of smaller sculptures on its surface is surrounded by plywood peg boards mounted to the walls. The viewer is invited to interact with Conlon's work as a collection of kinesthetic exercises, to think through modular movements and mechanical gestures. Each plywood rail along the wall features hooks, pegs and small wooden sculptures that can be freely adjusted, rotated and placed. The somewhat office-like space also features a small Rolodex with a series of witty and perplexing philosophic drawings and corresponding diagrams.


One interactive form, "Jamais Vu (Emptying Vessels)," immediately caught my interest. I picked it up several times, curious to understand its function. This sculpture is a triangular arrangement of three hollow wooden orbs, each with a small hole at the top, some plugged up by a cork. When picking up the object and gently rotating or turning it from side to side, a strange and rhythmic gurgling echoes out of the form as liquid travels from one chamber to the next. When removing the corks, the pressure and vacuum of the given form changes and the liquid moves about more freely, producing a different lyrical glug each time.


Although these artists present contrasting subjects at Goldfinch, I found their solo exhibitions complementary in the way they investigate and reveal their subjects. Both Adams and Conlon demonstrate the value of a reductive form, inviting the viewer to unfurl an open-ended dialogue and discover its many possibilities. (Cody Tumblin)


"Double-Talk" and "BOOK THAT IS ALSO A BOOKEND," through June 22 at Goldfinch Gallery, 319 North Albany.