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CTRL gallery is pleased to present three Houston-debut, solo-exhibitions by Erin Arnold, Pamela Chapman & Heimir Björgúlfsson. Each of these artists' practices could be described as an attempt to arrange or codify certain aspects of the human experience into a particular, meaningful order. Whether it be language (the semiotics of text), relationships (emotional attachment) or civilization and culture (foreign experience), Arnold, Chapman & Björgúlfsson each use art-making as a means for organizing and systematizing these otherwise slippery subjects.
With a dozen or so new paintings, Texas native Erin Arnold isolates and arranges seemingly disparate moments in an attempt to understand and make sense out of the vast world of human emotions and relationships. These symbolic, autobiographical vignettes function as stand-ins for particular moments in time and become a visual chronicling of the private life of the artist as individual. The exact meaning and significance of each moment may be known only to Arnold herself, but across the tableau of images, a particular story (and sensibility) unfolds.
It is never quite clear who's who in these intimate depictions; are we looking at the artist or seeing through her eyes? In a way, this uncertainty corresponds with the way we remember and store away our visual memories, especially those that involve emotional attachment. Sometimes we remember through our own eyes, but oftentimes the moment is more poignant when remembered through the eyes of another person, real or imagined.
Another possibility is the conflation of viewpoints into a single image. The painting Pink and Blue depicts two pairs of hands "seated" at a dinner table laden with seafood. One person casually offers a morsel of something to the other. The viewer is left to guess whether the artist is doing the giving or the receiving. But maybe "who's who" is not the point. Perhaps this image depicts the remembrance of a series of similar moments, some during which she received, others where she gave, all condensed into one visual memory.
Erin Arnold was born in Bryan, TX and currently lives and works in Richmond, VA. She received her BFA from Cornell University 2005 and her MFA from Tyler School of Art 2007.
In the north gallery, Philadelphia artist Pamela Chapman presents selected works from an ongoing series of paintings based on the pages of a dictionary. As loaded with meaning as the dictionary itself, Chapman's paintings are replete with associations. Perhaps the first association that comes to mind is the work of Joseph Kosuth. In 1966, Kosuth exhibited a canvas with the dictionary definition of the word "painting", rendered in simple unadorned text. (A related painting, Art as Idea as Idea, 1967, is currently hanging in the main hallway at the Menil Collection.) With this gesture, Kosuth rejected the concerns of Formalism in favor of a pared-down conceptual approach to art-making.
With her Dictionary Series, Chapman ingeniously conflates the conceptual concerns of Kosuth with the formal concerns he rejected. This fusing of the tenets of two art historical movements, Conceptualism and Formalism, allows Chapman's Dictionary paintings to be understood in various ways.
Combined with her deliberate color choices, the familiar columns of dictionary text can be seen as purely formal elements within the painting. But anyone even remotely familiar with the English language can't help but to be drawn into the parade of definitions and the associations that arise between words that have been fated to the same page. These meditative works are Chapman's attempt to arrange and make sense of language within the language of painting.
Pamela Chapman was born in Vancouver, BC and lives and works in Philadelphia. After studying painting in South Africa, London and Vancouver, she received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 2003.
LA based, Icelandic artist Heimir Björgúlfsson's paintings and collages depict exotic birds, some native to Iceland, superimposed on photographs of Los Angeles landscapes. The photographs are a record of truth, reflecting Björgúlfsson's reality of life in LA, in close proximity to the markings and by-products of daily urban existence. The colored pencil drawings of birds might represent the artist himself. It is quite easy to read these works as autobiographical. The artist as bird, adapting to a foreign land, developing a symbiotic relationship with a habitat that is so utterly different from the vast, untouched wilderness of his native Iceland.
Björgúlfsson's birds all look healthy and contented. Some even seem to smile as they pick through trash dumpsters and survey the effect of humanity on the natural world. Undaunted by the less-than-pristine state of their habitat, his colorful and resourceful avatars make a life for themselves in one of America's most enigmatic and energetic cities.
With studios and gallery representation in both LA and Amsterdam, Björgúlfsson, in migratory fashion, shares his time between continents.
Heimir Björgúlfsson was born Reykjavík, Iceland and lives and works in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. He received his MFA from the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam 2003.