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xoxo Kelly


Ladybirds and Yes.Oui.Si.

Earlier this month, we took in a performance at Yes.Oui.Si, the “multi-sensory” exhibit space on Vancouver Street in Boston (just around the corner from MassArt and the MFA). The space functions as both a gallery and a performance venue for artists of all genres - visual artists, performance artists, musicians, poets, filmmakers and more. 
The event was titled Lady Bird Renditions, and included performances from four female musicians, with poetry readings between sets. We were particularly blown away by Julia Easterlin, a Berklee grad who uses a looping machine and her powerful voice to compose moving, harmonic vocal pieces. 
There is something uniquely invigorating about experiencing a live performance in a gallery. It's as though the energy reverberating from the paintings, prints, sketches and sculpture converges with the energy from the performers and the audience as people bounce and sway to the music. There is a sense of being submerged in a tide of creativity. 
Julia Easterlin left us smiling and spellbound. Her voice spans an impressive range - in one instant soothing, in the next a booming force felt deep in the marrow. Easterlin uses her looping machine to great effect - she generates staccato, percussive sounds and layers them with lilting operatic vocals, pops, clicks, coos, pleas and declarations. Against this backdrop, she harmonizes; belts out the words or gently caresses them. She dances and gestures and beckons her audience. She is her own backup singer, she is the front woman, she is the conductor. She is a captivating performer, confidently engaging her audience and her band  (on this night a bass player and two percussionists). 

Here's Julia performing her version of the Pixies "Break My Body". 

If you can't get beyond the obvious quality issues with my camera phone footage, check out her 2011 performance of the same song below. 

Days before the performance, I had the opportunity to meet some of the Yes.Oui.Si. staff, including Director Miguel de Braganza. Miguel talked a bit about his vision for Yes.Oui.Si., and his continued efforts to seek out innovative uses for the space, to provide young artists with a venue and to provide audiences with access to new and exciting work. (If you feel inspired to submit a proposal, you should click here). 


Charline von Heyl at the ICA

"It looks complicated, but it's really easy" insists Charline von Heyl. There is a congenial chuckle that skitters through the group assembled in the gallery - perhaps at her honesty, perhaps because she herself is grinning as she says it, as though she is embarrassed to admit to the simplicity of her process. She is explaining one of the methods she uses to mask areas of a canvas and apply additional layers of paint to achieve the background and foreground effect that is the hallmark of her large abstract paintings. Her manner is at once relaxed, comfortable and enthusiastic. Listening to her feels much like listening to a friend describe their method for approaching an ordinary task, like pruning the hedges, except in this instance von Heyl is describing her process for achieving something extraordinary. 
Tuesday at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), in the company of art critics and bloggers, I attended a press preview of the first U.S. survey of Charline von Heyl’s works, a collection that includes large abstract paintings and two series of black and white collage "drawings", all produced in the last five years. The German born artist, now living in New York, is an influental presence for a generation of emerging artists, and is credited with demonstrating the continued relevancy of painting in contemporary art in a time when there is some debate on the matter. 
When we first arrived at the ICA, we were given the opportunity to walk through the gallery space and view the work independently before reconvening for a talk by the artist. My initial observation was that the scale, combined with von Heyl’s use of color, and the movement and vibration emanating from each painting gave a sense that each piece was an active partner in the viewers’ waltz taking place in each room. People moved from one painting to another, stepped forward, stepped back, shifted from left to right, repeating this movement time and again. I walked through the galleries in circles, revisiting each of the paintings and the collections of drawings multiple times. I gradually found a level of comfort amongst the bold colors and ceaseless motion, found a desire to delve more deeply into each one. This process of viewing, the artist would explain, is all by design. 
Von Heyl talks about the layers in Lazybone Shuffle.
Our group reassembled in front of a piece titled Lazybone Shuffle, and it was here that von Heyl spoke to us about technical aspects of her work, and the response she wants to elicit from the viewer. 

She employs a process of building up and scraping, of carving into. Layers of paint are applied and stripped away. There is a need to imbue energy into the work, and to this end von Heyl uses tape to mask out areas for painting, a process which allows for quick precision. Through this multi-stage process of construction and deconstruction, von Heyl creates depth - foreground and background. Planes recede in one section of the canvas, only to come pushing forth in the next glance as one moves closer, or further away, or approaches from a different angle. Linear and organic shapes slide in and out of these reverberating dimensions. 

In Solo Dolo, garlands of angular forms scrabble through one plane and into the next, only to shift course mid-movement. In Nuit de Paris, organic images float to the surface, hover translucent across layers that percolate, recede, become still. These abstract shapes do not have roots in objects or recognizable imagery, rather they are born from the artists imagination. She asks that we not seek to interpret this imagery on the canvas or identify it with something we already know. Rather she wants the viewer to take some time with her work - to choose a piece that appeals and spend some time developing a relationship with it, exploring its depths. All of this shifting from one plane to the next, the interweaving of other images, is intended to inspire the viewer to do just that. 
Igitur, 2008. Acrylic on linen,82 x 74 inches
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Enid A. Haupt Fund, 2010

Following our initial tour and the talk, I took the time to do this very thing - I attached myself to a piece titled Igitur, which is named for the poem by the French poet Stephane Mallarme. Mallarme’s poetry is all about the relationship between content and form on the page. It is multilayered, difficult to translate from French to English because so much of the meaning is dependent on the relationship between words and their presentation. This is perhaps an apt way to describe von Heyl’s Igitur, which is equally dependent on shape and form (and color) and their arrangement on the canvas. I spent time visually wandering into the crevices and outer surfaces of this painting, my eye always drawn back to the areas of electric red which, in one area nearly hummed right off the canvas, in another threatened to withdraw behind more subdued forms that share the space. I moved in close to peer at the texture, scratches that are barely perceptible from three feet away. I came to an understanding about the lavender background that cloyed at me at first. I came to intuitively understand, and yet not fully grasp this piece. Even as I write this post, I am compelled to look at it again and again, and I see something different each time. 

There is a dichotomy in von Heyl's paintings that makes them both accessible and terribly complex. Dive in as deep as you wish, and don't hesitate to start the process of exploration. Charline von Heyl has designed it this way for you. As she says, "It looks complicated, but it's really easy". 

Charline von Heyl will be on exhibit at the ICA from March 21 - July 15, 2012. For more information, contact the ICA at 617-478-3103 or visit their web site: icaboston.org


Yesterday's Lunch Observation [March 15]

The only the very tip
of the second tine
of this cheap stainless fork
touches the broad side
of a single black bean.

I look up at the two women who lean in to talk
on low backed stools.
Their dangly earrings bounce out their own
The yoga mat at their feet,
tightly strapped into its case,
is cold and resigned.


After the Storm

Pay special attention when you first open your door to freshly fallen snow - there will be little hints to the secret lives that happen all around you everyday. The magic of snow is that, for a very brief time, no one is invisible.