Sarah Krepp @ Roy Boyd
March 6 – April 14, 2009
From the moment we awaken, we are awash in information, thanks to the television, internet and other forms of ceaselessly streaming media. Separating the wheat from the chaff continues to be our biggest challenge despite our technological sophistication. How do we determine what is useful and what should be jettisoned? How do we organize it? And how do we keep the saturation from paralyzing us?
Sarah Krepp’s latest paintings, drawings and photographic assemblages continue her poetic inquiry into how we receive and process the unrelenting streams of information that circumscribe contemporary life. The works shown at Roy Boyd are grouped under three meta-titles: Blindsighted, White Noise and Parallel Thoughts. While the works on paper are spare, elegant investigations of line and form, it is the paintings that pack the greatest punch. The works are created from an accretion of materials, including paint, wire, thread, plastic bits, wood scraps, game boards and pieces, paper and shredded tires. Interspersed among this material web are fragments from a variety of communicative systems, including scientific charts, pages from dictionaries, eye tests, music maps and dance steps, among others. The concentration of this miscellany is so substantial that the canvas support strains as sensory overload is made palpable.
Because of their complex construction, all of Krepp’s works invite viewing from various distances. From across the room, the works present a monochromatic face, as their colors and textures are distributed evenly across the surface. This compositional strategy serves to equalize the weight and significance of the paintings’ communicative systems and speaks to the way the internet and related media have flattened hierarchies of information. Up close, the viewer is enveloped by the rich textures and particulars of the works as the detritus and globules of paint coalesce into an unmistakable rhythm predicated on the grid. In several of the largest works, the substructure resembles a monster-size circuit board. By adopting the organizing principles of the grid, the artist appears to suggest that it may be possible to systematize the crush of information, even if meaning is not guaranteed.
Primary colors, along with black and white, predominate in the works. This color scheme, together with her reliance on the grid, ties Krepp’s paintings firmly to her 20th century modernist heirs, such as Mondrian and Malevich. But rather than working reductively, Krepp drives in the opposite direction, packing the grid until it begins to collapse under the weight of contemporary life. The result is a body of work that is unabashedly material, imperfect and vital.
One of the most interesting paintings at Roy Boyd comes from the White Noise series. Its red surface has been cut in various places, and black thread has been sewn along the upper edge of the cuts. These perforations look very much like eyes, with the dangling thread as eyelashes. The eyes are empty, perhaps turned inward to protect against being blindsided—a mispronunciation of the show’s title Krepp clearly intends—by the crush of stimulation in our environments. In addition to advocating a defensive stance, the eyes in White Noise reorient the viewer to the show’s actual title, Blindsighted, which refers to the way individuals who are blind sense objects in their environment. Krepp seems to be saying that artists, too, have an extra sense they use to decode their environment. The works they produce can offer both insight into, and a pointed critique of, our condition, as Krepp adeptly demonstrates in her latest exhibition.