J GRABOWSKI: PORTABLE BEING
NOVELLA & DUSK Editions – Release Party for J Grabowski
ONE NIGHT EVENT – Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 7PM
For immediate release
The idea of producing a print with Ky Anderson, the Brooklyn-based artist and owner of DUSK, and J Grabowski, artist and co-founder of the gallery and project space Heliopolis, was a natural one. With their separate projects both, Anderson and Grabowski, have committed to developing platforms and collaborating with artists in their own backyard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The double edition highlights the exciting energy in the borough that is homegrown, created in artist studios and in intimate storefront spaces. NOVELLA is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with DUSK and J, and we hope you’ll join in the spirit.
Portable being is a series of prints and large scale translations of direct drawings made on the go.
J’s work stems from his notebooks filled with drawings and fragments of writing – made ritually on the way to places, using the ephemeral and the discarded as material; treating the day-to-day as an enormous workspace.
J Grabowski is an artist living in New York. His work has been exhibited in the US and abroad at Space 1026, Fuse Gallery, Gathering of the Tribes, Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Adobe books, the 2012 Brucennial and most recently included in ‘The Possible’ at the Berkeley Art Museum. J is the Co-founder of PUSH Press and Heliopolis, an artist-run space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; and is the art editor for Big Bell.
REPETITIOUS ACTIONS & BEFORE MEMORY
One of J’s main interests is in voids, I think, and the suddenness with which they’re (occasionally) filled. Tricks of the light, sometimes; but at others there’s a weight you can almost feel in your chest. Like anchors, or a series of low bass notes. Bach’s cello suites or ODB—either (or both) might be lurking in any given piece. J is a detective on the trail of things found in the city’s maw: ice thawing out, cordoned-off construction zones, strangers paused in strange attitudes. Whatever insists most humbly on anonymity attracts his attention. Whatever in the city (and there’s plenty) that tries to escape attention invariably catches his eye. Fast renderings of this stuff fill the many notebooks J has been at work on for the last decade or so. These notebooks, in turn, form the hidden armature over which the larger works hover. The quarry becomes the trace of its pursuit.
The notebook drawings—field recordings, really—are like newspaper clippings, they document real events. But they’re also ripped out of their context and left afloat. They always seem executed on the point of their subject’s turning away, as though made at the last minute, but after long observation and practice. Big scuds and detachments take place. One notebook condenses into smaller denser matter and calves, like a glacier, or drifts out into a tuft or a thundercloud. These detachments form the basis of most of the work J winds up showing, but it’s all predicated on scouting, drawing, recording. He takes sound clips and photographs charting the city’s movements, and writes—he writes a lot—all of which becomes underpaint the bigger studio works take as their basis. Like Franz Kline, who filled thin page after page of NYC phonebooks with studies for his canvases, J makes volumes of takes and looks carefully before moving. Then it’s all over in the blink of an eye.
So: one hand gives an other’s a radiant loop or tangle of orange lasso; in the second piece, a figure crawls in black over strange lips (Beckett’s “Not I”?). In the first of the two, “Repetitious Actions,” there’s a weft, a bright mess, handed from one to the next. The relation a gift or exchange forms between two unseen people, and the beautiful bright mess of color are its two subjects. What’s being handed—what’s always at hand?—is orange, pure and simple. A coiled braided mess of it. In waking life it’s maybe cord or rope, but in art (life’s only twin), it’s just color. In the other, a figure crawls or atones. Is it of or in a head, as memory? If so it’s likewise not. The place-holders that float over the lips seem designed to to hold a heavy silence. And yet there is a real buzz to the relations, the way the three elements are of a piece. They form a knot, afloat in a void, and seem suddenly aware of one another, as constituents. The lips even seem to find this abrupt relationship amusing, but maybe that’s a stretch. These two pieces are worth looking at for a very long time. They get better and better the longer I do so. And although it’s impossible to say any of J’s work is “representative,” that’s one of his greatest strengths as an artist, and he has many. The one trait or metonym (too loose a mesh to use) that in some way points to the work as a whole is their resemblence to cave paintings. Our earliest ancestors, from Malaysia to the French Alps, used loose but succinct iconographies, as simple as handprints or as multifarious as herds of buffalo spread across the mud walls of their chambers and fire-halls. Likewise, J (and plenty of other ‘modern’ artists—Haring, Bourgeois, or DeKooning, for example) use combinations of minimal elements to get the point across. They holed up in those spaces to dream or reconfigure the scene (seen)—the ‘real’ or waking world, and those dreams suddenly stayed put. Just fast strokes of pigment on big blank walls; they’re still there.
San Francisco CA April 2015