“Nothing To Blame But Gemini” is an installation of fourteen works by Whitney Claflin now on-view at Real Fine Arts in Williamsburg.
The installation is composed of one-half modestly-sized abstract paintings produced by the artist and one-half similarly-sized glossy posters printed-out by the artist which themselves each depict an abstracted detail of one of her own abstract paintings (not—it should be noted–the paintings in this particular installation, though).
The first thing to say about the installation is that one isn’t immediately sure which of the works here are the paintings and which of the works here are the posters as they’re each roughly the same size and they each depict iconography which one reads as “painterly”—drips, slashes, goopy brush strokes, etc.
(If one were to view the works through a computer screen [or a printed-out checklist], it would be effectively impossible to differentiate them via their media [rather, the “take away” message--in that case--becomes the sign of “painting,” or, alternatively, of “art.”])
However, as one spends time with “Nothing To Blame But Gemini” (as in the case [if one goes for this sort of thing, anyway] of spending time with a person born under the sign of Gemini), what at first glance appears to be singular, gradually reveals a strong duality.
The key variable of difference between these works is their materiality as objects—the paintings are sculptural, tactile; the posters are flat, glossy.
In the paintings, one views onto a surface molded by the artist—that is to say, a phenomenological space—the action occurred “here”; in the posters, one views into a surface automatically printed-out by a machine—that is to say a conceptual space—the action occurred “out there.”
Going one step deeper, the surface of the paintings calls to mind production as the location of the work (present tense), while the surface of the posters calls to mind both pre-production as well as post-production as the location of the work (past and future tenses).
And, at this point, if one is willing to go this far with the work, another layer emerges wherein each individual image harnesses these very tensions between “the hand of the artist” and “automatic effects.”
For example, in the painting works, collisions emerge between, on the one hand, the application of objects (broken ceramic, pieces of canvas, newspaper, string, glitter, etc.) which automatically produce iconographic elements and, on the other hand, the artist’s application of paint which manually produces iconographic elements.
And in the poster works, collisions emerge between, on the one hand, the data of the photograph which automatically produces iconographic elements and, on the other hand, the artist’s digital manipulation (using “painterly” effects in an image editing software) of the photograph which manually produces iconographic elements.
Finally, the painterly gestures in the works themselves (be they conducted with paint or pixels) point one in the direction of these dialectical tensions as they reveal an indeterminacy—a hesitation to settle anywhere for certain.
One views wiggling lines and almost haphazard juxtapositions of iconography and media; things never quite coalesce.
However, if one is willing to think of the work occurring here as located less in the individual objects, and more in the dialectical tension pictured by the installation as a whole, then suddenly a strong, singular point of view reveals itself.