With the Grain at New York Artists Equity

In Dialogue with Patricia Fabricant

Patricia Fabricant, with her work “Dream”

The group show With the Grain, curated by artist and curator Patricia Fabricant at the New York Artists Equity, features artists who work directly with wood grain. Patricia Fabricant, who is also a participating artist, shares some of her thoughts on the exhibition. With the Grainopens today, Thursday, Nov 5th from 6-8PM and runs through Sat, Nov 28th, 2020.

AS: What would you like to share about the genesis of this show and your curatorial process?

PF: My personal interest in wood grain happened almost accidentally. I shared a studio with a part-time carpenter and he brought some scraps to the studio from a job site. I idly started painting the grain on one of them et voila, a body of work was launched. It’s nice when inspiration happens so organically. For a long period of time I couldn’t look at a piece of plywood without imagining it painted in a rainbow of colors. I would drive the guys at the lumberyard crazy looking for a piece of wood that “spoke” to me in just the right way. Ironically the cheapest oak plywood often yields the most dramatic grain, often resembling a topographical map.

Over the years, during and since, I have “collected” other artists who share this fascination with grain. By collected, I mean I have been keeping a list. I have always wanted to gather this work together into a show and see how the diverse approaches speak to each other. This show will be a feast for the eyeballs.

Ellen Hackl Fagan, “Wood Grains and Vocals”

AS: In the press release for With the Grain it says that the show explores works related to wood in diverse ways. Can you elaborate on that?

PF: The work ranges from artists whose compositions are directly dictated by the grain, to artists who incorporate woodgrain into their works and/or use it as a discrete element or backdrop, to artists who recreate grain in their works. As Beth Reisman eloquently puts it: “The wood grain is utilized, an internal history of the tree, as a parallel to our own interior lives.”

Several of the artists brought up the relationship between wood grain and music. “Wood grain is our visual rhythm section, frozen time,” said Susan Jennings, who is also a performer. “Wood grain represents vocal chords or guitar strings vibrating,” said Ellen Hackl Fagan. Instrument makers throughout history have recognized the resonant properties of various types of wood. And of course the grain of plywood has its own innate rhythm, brought about by the mechanical process used to make it.

AS: What would the viewer see – Can you give an idea on the artworks in the show and how they interrelate?

PF: There are artists in the show whose work, like mine, directly follows the grain, most notably Beth Reisman, Alicia Philley and Deanna Lee. I would include Jenny Carpenter in this group as well although she is doing something very different in her work: weaving the grain into a subtle and evocative figurative composition. Then we have artists who likewise paint with the grain but also incorporate other materials, such as Susan Jennings and Natalia Nakazawa. For other artists the raw grain is integrated into the composition. Cheryl Molnar lets the grain suggest wispy clouds; Alyse Rosner’s rubbings of the grain are sensitively integrated into her multi-layered paintings; for Frank Parga and Alvin Goldberg the grain acts as the background; in Jim Osman’s sculpture the grain is allowed to peek through as a counterpoint to hard-edged areas of more opaque paint. And finally there are artists who playfully replicate wood grain: Paul Gagner, Jesse Lambert and Ellen Hackl Fagan.

Left: Jesse Lambert, “Pan”. Right: Alyse Rosner, “Shift (pink)”

Left to right: Paul Gagner, “The Artist Rearranged with Pickle”; Beth Reisman, “Yamit”; Natalia Nakazawa, “Visual Heteroglossia, In Absentia”; Alicia Philley, “The Complete/Incomplete Timeline”

Left to right: Susan Jennings, “Echo Silence (Orange Bar)”; Deanna Lee, “AWGP-5” and “AWGP-4”; Cheryl Molnar, “Cliffside”

AS: Tell me a bit about the venue.

PF: From their mission statement: “New York Artists Equity Association, Inc. (“Artists Equity”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1947 by artists and art patrons with the mission to promote opportunities for artists.  It operates Equity Gallery, an art space located on the Lower East Side of New York City. Equity Gallery opened in October 2015 and is designed to be a fluid and flexible new model that is responsive to a range of artists’ needs. It simultaneously serves as a gallery for artists to exhibit and sell their work; a hub for professional workshops and innovative programming exploring critical issues of interest to artists and curators; and a gathering place for artists, curators and patrons. With today’s increased focus on the art market, Artists Equity aims to provide a space focused on process, where entrepreneurial spirit and the artist as creative provocateur are celebrated.”

Under the direction of Michael Gormley, the gallery has mounted an ambitious program that aims to showcase work by emerging, overlooked, or underrepresented artists or groups, while maintaining consistently high quality, relevant, and diverse shows. Its members are encouraged to submit curatorial proposals and Michael and Gina Mischianti have provided amazing support for me with this show.

AS: There is quite clearly a reference to the beauty and fragility of trees throughout the show. What are your thoughts there?

PF: The connection between human existence and trees is particularly potent in the present moment. Trees may be all that stand between a habitable planet and environmental annihilation. I am heartsick at the destruction of old growth forest currently taking place around the world. These trees, their ecosystems and indigenous populations, and the natural resources contained therein are irreplaceable and disappearing fast. I recently read The Overstory, by Richard Powers, an amazing book that interweaves various narratives to do with the power of trees, highly recommend it.

Left: Jenny Carpenter, “Touched”; Right: Jim Osman, “Tete”

With the Grain at the New York Artists Equity 245 Broome Street, New York, NY, 10002

Curated by Patricia Fabricant Artists: Alvin Goldberg, Alicia Philley, Alyse Rosner, Beth Reisman, Cheryl Molnar, Deanna Lee, Ellen Hackl Fagan, Frank Parga, Jenny Carpenter, Jesse Lambert, Jim Osman, Natalia Nakazawa, Patricia Fabricant, Paul Gagner, Susan Jennings

Opening Reception: Thurs, Nov 5th, 2020, 6 – 8PM Through Sat, Nov 28th, 2020
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 12 to 6pm n Thurs, Nov. 19 until 8pm as part of LES Gallery Night. Artist talk: Saturday Nov. 21, 4pm

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: artspielblog@gmail.com