This #FollowerFriday we are honored to share the experimental drawings of artist Gelah Penn. Penn's nomadic accumulations of disparate synthetic materials respond to and disrupt the architectural interiors in which they are installed. Often assuming panoramic formats that extend beyond the viewer's field of vision, these works require the viewer to move, and they reward bodily movement through space by transforming it into an act of discovery as each compositional element is revealed. Recalling the assemblages of Bruce Conner and the layered abstractions of Judy Pfaff, installations such as Situations (2017) revel in the materiality of industrial plastics while conjuring associations of fetishism and the body. In its formal structure, Situations appears indebted as much to the genre of cinema as to that of landscape painting, inviting comparison to Robert Rauschenberg's The ¼ Mile or 2 Furlong Piece (1981–98). Other installations like Where the Sidewalk Ends (2012) resist comparison to cinema because they break free of the gridded, filmic horizontality, instead appearing as fungus colonizing Modernist and Georgian architectural spaces. Ultimately, Penn interrogates our relationship to and experience of built spaces; however, her message and its political implications remain ambiguous, cloaked in series of powerful formal gestures. Are we to read Situations, for instance, as a centennial inversion of El Lissitzky's Prounenraum (1923), a critique of the Utopian logic of Russian Constructivism and historical avant-gardes, generally? Whatever the answer, Penn's art invites viewers to keep looking, and moving.
I expand the language of drawing in sculptural space.
In site-responsive installations, I deploy a variety of synthetic materials to invade, interpret and confound the architectural parameters of a given space. The works in my Polyglot drawing series also foreground the same internal formal and conceptual contradictions: cohesion and fragmentation, balance and vertigo, minuet and jitterbug. Areas of visual commotion impinge on the paper’s edge and transpose my investigations into folded, punctured, torn and layered zones of marks. I sometimes incorporate photographic images of installation details, thus cannibalizing and reformulating my concerns from one medium to another.
My great interest in film, particularly the uneasy territory of film noir, informs the work.
My aim is to construct interiorized events of perceptual incident and psychological dis-ease. My hope is that this conflation of disparate parts—mark, shadow, geometry, gesture, concord, dissonance—results in some sort of riotous whole.
Gelah Penn divides her time between New York City and Connecticut, where she maintains an active exhibition and lecturing schedule. Most recently, the artist has exhibited her work at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania; Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY College at Old Westbury, Long Island, New York; Lori Bookstein Fine Art, NYC; Westbeth Gallery, NYC; and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, Maine. She has served as a visiting critic at such institutions as California State University, Long Beach; Christie's Education, NYC; Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, Washington; and School of Visual Arts, NYC; among many others. She has been awarded fellowships by both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Her work is represented in the collections of Weatherspoon Art Museum, The Columbus Museum, Brooklyn Museum Library, and the Cleveland Institute of Art, Gund Library.