“Palm Reader,” A Show About Touch

by Whitney Kimball on May 15, 2013 Reviews

"Palm Reader" at So What Space. From left: Fabienne Lasserre, Sophie Stone, Luke Armitstead, Stone

“So What Space” is a small new gallery opened by friends of mine, and this show “Palm Reader” is curated by a friend of mine, Philadelphia-based artist and curator Sean Gerstley. Take this with a grain of salt.

Lumpy-dumpiness seems to be all the rage in the emerging scene (think curdled plaster, splotchy painting, loading palettes, pinched and unglazed ceramics), to the point where the Lower East Side can feel like one big boutique. But usually, a decent show will remind you that materials are not the problem. So if “Palm Reader”– raw painting and sculpture by Fabienne Lasserre, Luke Armitstead, and Sophie Stone in the new Sunset Park mini-gallery So What Space–  looks in line with the popular trend, the idea does not; a show about touch asks us look beyond the idea of trends in the first place.

But first, you notice their weight, alternatively sagging and lifting, as though the artists stopped mid-sculpt. The first piece we see is Lasserre’s small wire-on-canvas, which swoops up and away from the wall, like a billowing skirt; the piece is directly contrasted with her following Looked At Quickly, a three-legged hump, with what looks like a heavy vinyl garbage bag, filling in for the fourth leg. Looked At‘s dispenser-like quality, its rainbow-striped legs, and friendly shapes look like something out of Fisher-Price, but it’s way more prehistoric than that.

Painting on cardboard, by Sophie Stone

Similarly hefty-looking are long slab paintings by Sophie Stone, which turn out to be made of styrofoam and lightly-warping corrugated cardboard. She’s torn the cardboard in such a way that it looks ancient, and covered both slabs with a wash of wandering lines and drips. Stone’s mark-making is organic and unlabored, but clearly contemplated. I’m not sure that being the opposite of what it looks like is enough, but the play on weight, the ancient quality, and the meditative rhythms, sure help the overall show.

Ceramic sculpture by Luke Armitstead

Luke Armitstead’s sagging vessel-like ceramics really drive the point home. They’re made with variations of strips, looped and stuck together like gum, with deep thumbprints sometimes creating patterns. From his sturdy vessels, Armitstead lets a few coils hang out like handles, or inchworms, or hair. There’s an especially sexy casualness with that gesture, of building up a structure and then letting it get loose.

Overall, the show comes close to a popular dumpster formalism, which a fellow gallery-goer once compared to shooting photos of a squashed soda can; we’ve all been there, but where’s the exploration in that? Still, don’t mistake the earthy look for gratuitous. “Palm Reader” feels too down-to-earth for trend-setting. A show about the hand offers an antidote to familiar styles; the visible investment of the artist.

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