Another Homework Experiment
14th May – 20th June 2009
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Carefully stepping in the holes in the vast expanse of painted hessian stretched on the floor of Rose Nolan’s studio, all I could think was-what is it? The scale of Another Homework Experiment was not a surprise. Nolan’s work regularly oscillates between the discrete and the monumental. However, once I heard that it formed the basis of a corridor structure to be constructed in the gallery, it seemed curiouser and curiouser. I imagined a vast tent or cubbyhouse cobbled together from a stiff elephant’s hide: Bruce Nauman meets Babar?
Nolan has intimated a desire to create a habitable work for some time now: maquette-like constructions; photographs of buildings; wall paintings that outline architectural spaces. Nolan’s new project, which if not exactly bricks and mortar, is a bona fide structure that must be walked through to access the gallery. Perforated by large polka dots, the rough fabric walls are outlined against the light like the tracery of a Gothic window (or, a lace-like cage?). And this is not all. What we are walking through is the reverse of the painted exterior, a backstage pass (or passage), if you like. Emerging from Nolan’s tunnel (her own description of the work), the words HARD BUT FAIR and POINTLESS are visible along each side. The circles cut out of them have desiccated these texts, of course.
This has been a strategy of several of Nolan’s recent works: to complicate their legibility, compelling the viewer to resist the quick grab. And what of the texts themselves? The first, sounding like a recession-era homily, sits incongruously against its high-spirited painted and perforated field (perhaps, like a carnival sideshow, with the occasional face poking through). Moreover, POINTLESS seems less an admission of defeat, than the ceding of space: those dots nibbling away at both the red field and the white letters, complicating the work’s already complicated spatiality. Is there a possibility that these voids will eventually take over completely, leaving the work so degraded and moth-eaten that it will quite simply disappear? I actually favour this prospect, which links Nolan’s extravagant gesture with the painted clay idols of India. Worked on for months at a time, they are processioned through the streets being immersed in water where they will dissolve and vanish.
Michael Graf, 2009