Philadelphia Arts Alliance

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Paper[space] Press Release Excerpt


Paper[space] is a survey of contemporary work by east coast artists who use paper not merely as a support for paint or pencil, but as a sculptural medium in its own right. The participating artists all push the boundaries of this highly flexible and readily available material, and prove that paper can be both fragile and resilient. The eight artists selected seize upon the exceptional formal variety that can be achieved with a material we take for granted everyday.

In Paper[space], an array of techniques and processes are employed to both reference its material properties while questioning the traditional presuppositions of its use. Many play with the ideas associated with paper, such as its use for personal and official communication, such has Dawn Gavin’s use of United States maps as the foundation for her incised pieces or Donna Ruff’s transgressive technique of burning texts, referencing censorship and protest. Other artists look to other uses of paper, such as the traditional art of paper folding in the improvisational installations of Sarah Julig, which not only draw upon the structure and geometry of origami, but also reference the looseness and speed of a child’s craft project. In works that reflect their traditional uses, there is the concept of paper in its service as a carrier of information and language, promoting the development of personal codes and vocabularies; as a useful material for protection and enclosure; or as a reference to traditional associations with both simple and complex craft based processes. For these artists, the choice as a material is an engagement with its already established associations.

Then there is the physical nature of paper itself, and the exploration of its structure, its tensile strength and flexibility. As paper itself has been elevated to a medium of artistic expression, so has the manipulation of paper, whether handmade, manufactured or found. Treating paper as three-dimensional form, many of the artists work either by incising an existing material such as the ephemeral cut pieces by Jin Lee, Hunter Stabler, and Nami Yamamoto; or through a process of building forms through accumulation, seen in the work of Leslie Mutchler, and Natasha Bowdoin.

It is the viewer’s emotional, intellectual and physical experiences with paper that shape our relationship with the material. Thus once one acknowledges their status as paper objects, they are viewed in a completely different context to work created in any other media. The artists presented in Paper[space] all demonstrate a new commitment to creating objects out of this medium and expanding the boundaries from which we understand the properties of paper, thus increasingly defining themselves and their craft by the material they use.

Stemming from an interest of Native American mythology, Natasha Bowdoin’s cut paper installations celebrate the powerful forces of nature and the ways in which fables and legends celebrate the concept of transformation. Her sculptures reflect a form of resistance, in both subject matter and technique, to the forces of technology. Built through layers of intricately cut strips of paper, Bowdoin references animals and nature by combining the physical qualities of multiple and paradoxical creatures and objects into fantastical new forms.

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