We Went to North Carolina Part 1: CAM, Lump and Flanders Gallery

by Paddy Johnson and Michael Anthony Farley on October 27, 2015 Reviews + We Went To...

Sarah Cain, “The Imaginary Architecture of Love,” 2015, Installation view.

Sarah Cain, “The Imaginary Architecture of Love,” 2015, Installation view.

Two weeks ago Michael and I headed to North Carolina to visit a friend and do some studio visits at University of North Carolina Greensboro.  We ended up with an epic tour of North Carolina, from Raleigh to Winston Salem (for context, that’s about the distance from Philadelphia to Washington, DC). In part one, we’ll discuss our highlights from Raleigh.

Sarah Cain: The Imaginary Architecture of Love
CAM Raleigh
409 W Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
On view until Jan. 3, 2016

What’s on view: An irregular grid of mattresses on the floor of a hangar-like space. Huge, painterly abstract murals with occasional found objects peppered throughout.

Michael: This installation works well from two vantage points. On the one hand, it has this theatrical proscenium staging when the viewer walks in (three “scenic” walls surrounding an area of implied action; the bedroom “where the magic happens”) that almost felt minimal. Up close, though, there’s more diversity in the mural’s mark-making and color palette than I would’ve expected from something at that scale. There seemed to be a lot of attention paid to activating different surfaces and including little surprises like the objects affixed to the walls. That being said, I wish there was a little more “stuff” to it, because I think it was the least interesting for the viewer during the approach—in between the initial realization that the installation was a room full of mattresses and abstract murals and then the delight in taking-in the up-close surfaces. I wanted a level of intermediary enjoyment. Overall, I think the piece nearly lived up to its ambition, which is certainly saying something! Most importantly, the painting looked like it was really fun to produce, and that’s something I always appreciate.

Paddy: I agree with what you’re saying about wanting a little more “stuff” to it – or at least a few more ways to interact with the installation. I thought a lot about Katherina Grosse’s exhibition at the Temporare Kunstalle in Berlin in 2009. She showed these painted building-sized disques with holes in them and leaned them up against the walls. As a viewer you could walk around them and behind them and look through the slates. It was really satisfying and its monumentality was overwhelming. With these works, you could sit on the beds in the middle of the floor and enjoy the work, but short of taking selfies against the walls, you really didn’t interact with it. It didn’t help that all the mattresses were the same size and height. The center space died for lack of variation.

That said, I still think the show was successful. The X markings on the wall could be viewed as X chromosomes, a Calatrava-like gesture to figuration, or an invitation to kiss. The open endedness of the content served the piece well, in the sense that there were enough different connections and themes that it was impossible to get bored. And as you note, formally, the work was solid. I love that on the back wall, you had gestural mark-making bound by hard-edged painted lines, on drywall, on brick, and on a wooden door. So much textural variation! The quilted mattress with a diamond bullseye painted on it added a final layer. I really enjoyed that section of the piece.

Michael: Speaking of selfies, I love that you and I took exactly the same Instagram photo of this work independently of each other, in an entire cavernous room of painted surfaces. Are our tastes predictable? I also just looked on Instagram to find them and discovered that, yes, this is a very selfie-friendly artwork.

Paddy: Huh. I think I like the piece better with the sideways tables in the center of the room, than with the mattresses.

Installation view at Lump

Installation view at Lump

505 S. Blount Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Artists: Leah Bailis, Philadelphia, PA; Lee Delegard, Brooklyn, NY; Lydia Moyer, Covesville, VA; Molly Schafer, Chicago, IL; Tory Wright, Greenville, SC; and Laura Sharp Wilson, Salt Lake City, UT
On view through October

What’s on view: Mostly-fibers based work from six female artists who have previously shown in the space (most are former residents of Raleigh who have since moved away). Many pieces reference garments or decor and include text or other embellishment.

LEAH BAILIS Failure 2015

Leah Bailis, “Failure,” 2015

Michael: There was a moment when I kind-of zoned-out looking at Leah Bailis’s bedazzled “Failure” shirt and thought about how much I wanted to own it as an actual garment, but realized that I would inevitably forget not to machine wash it and then all the beads would fall off. I simultaneously thought, “this is a t-shirt that really is doomed to failure” and “this is why I can’t have nice things.” Then I remembered it was an art object and felt even more sheepish. I think that’s a sign of a successful piece—something that provokes a desire to possess but also a little sadness and humor. That’s an effective strength shared by a lot of the work in the show: use of a familiar consumer object and language made the most memorable pieces here feel approachable and loaded without taking themselves too seriously.  

Leah Bailis’s other works, though, are creepy precisely because they had so many associations. I’m thinking of her series of bodybag-sized black fabric works that referenced quilts but had eye holes like a balaclava/niqab hybrid. I think one was also embellished with fake eyelashes? That’s a pretty sweeping conflation of femininity and things that relate to the body! They felt domestic or architectural but not like a home I wanted to live in. There was an ambiguity around whether or not the “garment” was empowering or threatening or needed for protection or was somehow oppressive… it’s like the sleeping bags Pussy Riot might take to a slumber party in a haunted house in Kabul.  

Paddy:  I have to say, I loved this show, but it definitely took me a few minutes to realize that. Sparsely hung, with only a few prints hung on clips and printed pillows, most of the work looks common enough to be dismissible. But the dry humor of much of the art paired with its lack of preciousness hit exactly the right note (particularly because most jokes die outside of the context they were made anyway.) A good example of this was the quilted movers blanket that had mirrors placed behind cut out eye holes. Did Bailis also make this? It’s a clever piece as it reflects exactly what eyes might see – and naturally what you see changes as you move, which makes it seem as if the piece is tracking you.  

Michael: Yep! I think there were a few variations. I wish I had taken photos, but I remember looking directly in the mirror and seeing my eyes looking back at me from the “mask”. It was such a clever strategy for making a viewer empathize with an inanimate object while also projecting one’s gaze back as an other. I think this is one of the few reflective works I’ve seen in the past few years that was about more than being a photo-op, speaking of selfies.

Lydia Moyer, “Trump Pillow,” 2015, installation view.

Lydia Moyer, “Trump Pillow,” 2015, installation view.

Michael: Isn’t Donald Trump exactly the kind of cocky asshole everyone regrets getting in bed with? Well, I’m sure none of his exes have regrets, for obvious reasons, but all of his rhetoric really does sound like the most cringe-worthy pillow talk.

Paddy: So, this is a quote he actually said, right?

Michael: Yes. As a means of damage control after an escalating series of degrading comments about women who dared to disagree with him, which he was grilled on by Megyn Kelly, who he then implied was angry because she was menstruating.

Paddy: The last thing I want on my pillow is Donald Trump. But this pillow doesn’t look like it’s made for me. It looks more like a pillow designed for  Trump to fuck.

Michael: HAHA! Or, a warning that no matter how much we try to insulate ourselves from politics in the domestic bubble, we end up having to live with them.



Gabrielle Duggan and Neill Prewitt: Consensus Reality
Flanders Gallery
505 S. Blount Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
On View until Oct 30, 2015

What’s on view: In the same building as Lump, a project space-turned-gold-leafed-screening room showing a low-budget-looking musical set in North Brooklyn.

Michael: This video piece totally hooks the viewer in with a campy, colorful song-and-dance number in a park. After about 6 minutes, though, less visually decadent scenes with not-quite-catchy music and shaky camera-handling are asking a lot attention-span wise. I think it’s total length was around half an hour? At any rate, it felt too long with too little going on. I’m still not sure what the “plot” was? An artist’s quest for self-actualization? It vacillated between somewhat new-age-y scenes and tongue-in-cheek “first world problems”. I think the highlight was a scene where the protagonist is standing in his bathroom next to a sign that reads:


grant me the


to recycle the things I can’t accept


to accept the things I can’t recycle and the


to know the difference.

I want that mantra embroidered on something! At any rate, I think this piece needed a little more editing, because it has some pretty great moments, but I can’t imagine the average person is as willing to sit through the whole thing to catch them.

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