Karen Margolis’s intricate wall pieces and sculptures featured in her current solo show In the Precipice at Foley resemble topographic mindscapes or cosmic maps. The sum of her dense cell-like circular shapes in some works create a sense of condensing inward, and in others exploding outward. Close up it is like taking a journey through a complex network of neurons, galaxies or emotional states of mind. It is enjoyable to identify recognizable fragments such as remnants of old maps with readable places, trace the multiple burnt holes and biomorphic shapes created with a soldering iron, focus on the hypnotizing miniscule dots of paint on circular clusters painted with watercolor or gouache, and then follow a complex net of crisscrossing dark linear threads which create an engaging tension with the curvy forms.
Margolis’s work allures you in by its beauty but as you spend more time with it the darker psychological underscores gradually surface. The forms are informed both by the artist’s ongoing diaristic writings and an Emotion Flow Chart she has developed, which pairs a specific emotion with a reproducible Pantone color, for example, yellow represents irritation, blue equates abandonment and pink pairs with excitement, along with color gradations in between. This process perhaps points to her early admiration of Duchamp and the surrealists’ ideas on automatic drawing. The charting mechanism places her work on a solid conceptual ground, but it is through her intuitive use of materiality and process sensibilities that her artwork soars.
Margolis’s three later works in proximity to her new sculptures, standout. It is rewarding to look at them as a trio, as the dense cellular clusters shift from left in Splat to right in Pending and spread downwards through darker shades of blue to black in Xanthic. Together, the juxtaposition of dense materiality and void, of vibrant colors and of black core, create within each piece a sense of explosion beyond an imposed border, a sense of yearning for a new yet unknown space.
The sculptures in the show are an evolution from the work on the walls. These intimate sculptures placed on shelves are made of painted wires and map fragments which altogether build into dense biomorphic shapes – loose, even wild at times in both color and form. This letting-go quality contrasts with the meticulous and highly controlled visual language in the wall pieces, or as the artist puts it, forming a yin and yang. The dialogue between the two and three-dimensional work in the exhibition gives us a glimpse not only into the artist’s frozen moments of mindscapes in the past, but also creates a portal into possibilities in the future.
Karen Margolis, In the Precipice
Foley Gallery, Through November 17th