Three Notable American Novellas
23 Nov 2007 – 19 Jan 2008
Laura Bartlett Gallery is delighted to open its new gallery space at No. 10 Northington Street, with the exhibition Three Notable American Novellas by British artist Becky Beasley.
Beasley’s work moves between sculpture and photography. Its subject matter is largely composed of autobiographical recollections mediated through literary references. Aesthetically it engages in a questioning of the relations between hand made objects and their (re-) presentation as photographic objects. Her practice is at times oneiric, but bears equal references to surrealism as to minimalism. Beasley’s work deals with death and anxiety, using elements from the visual and the literary realms to allow her to meditate on issues of personal fate and destiny.
Despite the literary titling, Three Notable American Novellas is dealing with images, albeit through both photographs and objects. Undisclosed within the exhibition, the accompanying catalogue, American Letter, identifies three short American fictions: William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener and Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons. What links these three for Beasley are a series of potentially wild, literary objects or figures that bear heavily and intensely on space, both architecturally and mentally.
Recently described by Alessio Ascari as ‘mental objects’, the conceptual blueprints for Beasley’s recent sculptures, her woodworks, stem from a combination of literary references (fictions) and existing domestic or bodily dimensions. An odd kind of carpentry ensues.
A number of the works incorporate as a dimension the US Letter paper size (8 ½ x 11 inches). Since the 1970’s, this format has not been used outside of America and is currently being devalued within certain institutions in the US in preference for the International A-series. Beasley’s US Letter sized works perhaps anticipate the future obsolescence of this format.
The primary reference for the woodworks in the exhibition comes from Faulkner’s novella As I Lay Dying, in which a dying woman lies in a bed by a window in order to oversee that her sons are building her a good coffin. The ‘Sleep, Night’ works are scaled-up from the symbol of a coffin that appears as a symbol within the text of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.
‘Night, Music’, a highly reflective black object based on the exact, if abstracted, dimensions of an upright piano (Professional 125A) that has been turned on its side, appears as if it has fallen from space. The piano structure has been hollowed out, its imaginary internal spaces becoming empty panelled interiors reminiscent of a series of telephone booths or confessionals. The title refers to the short story by Capote, Music for Chameleons, in which features both a piano and a black mirror.
Beasley’s largest photographic work to date, ‘Malcontenta’, is a seamed photograph made from one half of a single negative. The object within the image reaches from the floor to the ceiling of the space, as does the photographic object within the gallery itself. The work proposes itself as a potential screen or screening-object, produced from a reading of the ‘high, green, folding screen’ that features in Bartleby the Scrivener. However, it bears no clear illustrative resemblance. What the high, green, folding screen offered Beasley was not an obvious object, but a series of implications for practice and the workings of the studio. The black on black design produces, intermittently, an illusory ‘deep space’, which the reflective gloss both confirms and undoes. It is both flat and deep, object and image
In his late essay on Herman Melville’s Bartleby, Gilles Deleuze mysteriously describes the screen as ‘prairie green’ and currently the artist is unable to find a source for this specification of the colour. Beasley asked four American residents to purchase and ship a ream of copy paper to her. The instructions regarding the colour were that it be ‘prairie green’. The resulting works, ‘Green Ream’, are each made from a ream of green US Letter sized paper, tightly packed into a handmade American walnut veneer case. Deleuze’s mysterious specification has been usefully implicated as it foregrounds the question of nature which is an ongoing motif in the novella. The ‘Ream Green’ works are understood as being miniature landscapes. The green paper also produces the only colour in the exhibition, apart from that offered by the use of wood.
An artist’s publication, American Letter, published by Laura Bartlett Gallery, with text by John Slyce and Becky Beasley has been produced in an edition of 500 copies to coincide with the exhibition. A limited edition version is also available in an edition of 35 signed and numbered copies (£150 each + VAT). The limited edition version includes a seamed variation of the photograph Malcontenta that has been hand-printed by the artist and produced especially for the limited edition publication.
Becky Beasley (b.1975, UK) graduated from Goldsmiths College, London in 1999 and from The Royal College of Art in 2002. Selected solo exhibitions include Eleven Years Later, Office Baroque Gallery, Antwerp; Decors du Silence!, UBU Gallery, Glasgow; Six Stories, Millefiori Art Space, Athens and Thru Darkly Night, Whitechapel Project Space, London. Beasley has exhibited recently in the following group exhibitions, Ost Property, Danielle Arnaud, London; Black & White, IBID Projects, London; Encosta Galleria, Lisbon and Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Liverpool and London. This year Becky Beasley was selected for the Artists Pension Trust (www.aptglobal.org).
Laura Bartlett Gallery is designed by architect Tom BartlettDownload PDF ↓