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Home / Articles / Arts / Art Features /  Block Art
Susan-YORK-30-view-2
Susan York’s graphite works bisect the self.

Block Art

Susan York invites introspection

November 3, 2010, 1:00 am

Susan York’s handful of minimalist works are big, black and queer. They sneak around the space in corners, on the floor, in and on walls. Sometimes, they tiptoe barely a whit from the blank walls or hover just a finger’s length from the floor. If they were people, they’d be called peculiar—these hermits keep to themselves and don’t say much.


But the late-fall sun that pours in from James Kelly Contemporary’s south-facing glass doors engenders a different conversation. The framed graphite-on-paper works, all of which mimic other solid graphite works, are just as black and dark-matter-like as their pure-graphite counterparts. They are deeply etched, so that the paper, too, becomes solid with graphite. When the light pools on their glass coverings, the coal color of the backdrops creates mirrors, which refer not only to the viewers’ own images, but also the other works that have been skulking behind their backs. 


The terribly weighty solid works are proverbial and literal black boxes, storing important information for those who look. They scintillate in the sun as well, also becoming objects for self-reflection. Like any mirrors, what one infers from them is subjective—and this exhibition is a carnival house of mirrors. 


As if to emphasize the multitudinous occasions for self-evaluation, signs warn patrons not to touch the pieces. They are polished graphite and assume fingerprints quite easily, thus they not only have the power to reflect, but also to be altered by the viewer. That is, of course, if what is viewed is clear in the first place.


“Untitled (bisecting wedge)” does just what it says. The folks at James Kelly constructed a wall around the piece’s 500-pound solid graphite mass, placing it alarmingly high above gallerygoers’ relatively less-dense heads. At first, it appears to be a rectangular prism, but its placement causes it to look asymmetrical, slightly tipped. The shape itself is not quite exact; the right angles are all wrong. Or perhaps the change in perception comes from the wariness of staring up at an impending anvil of doom.


The singularly color-framed work (even the faint wood color is stark amid all the black works, white walls and gray floors), “(Left) Corner Column,” is a drawing of “Corner Column,” one of two rectangular prisms fitted in this space, slightly above the floor. What at first is a straightforward rectangle of graphite on paper is not so straight. Its edges smolder with the fuzzy haze of filmed-over eyes. There’s also the matter of the image of the viewer’s entire body and of nearby graphite pieces with which to contend.


The works are not quite linear, nor quite as severe as they at first seem. The graphite bleeds out in clouds of coal from the works’ hearts of darkness to form rounded, more intimate pieces than are first apparent. 


According to pop-psychology quizzes, an empty room can be lonely to extroverts. But true introspection requires ceding space to the voices in one’s head. York’s works, scattered in a largely barren space, won’t provide much company, but they can be good listeners. At James Kelly, the only audible voices are internal, just prodded by the kindly ears of York’s curious works. Therefore, in this space, there is no white noise, just an inner conversation. 


 

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