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CTRL is pleased to present three exhibitions of new works by John Sparagana, Sasha Pierce and Katy Heinlein. In the north gallery, Houston/Chicago based artist John Sparagana returns to CTRL with a new series entitled The Crisis Professionals. In the south gallery, Toronto based painter Sasha Pierce makes her US gallery debut with six of her intricate, mesmerizing paintings. And in the project space, Houston artist Katy Heinlein presents two dynamic new sculptures.
Canadian philosopher and scholar Marshall McLuhan is best known for his assertion "the medium is the message". In the work of John Sparagana, McLuhan's influential concept is given fascinating form. In fact, Sparagana's new work suggests an expanded version of this idea, which could read "The media is the medium is the message". Through a unique sculptural process, Sparagana collects, cannibalizes and recombines multiple copies of the same magazine pages to create intricate collages. In his most recent series, completed while working in Berlin, Sparagana makes use of the German magazine, Der Spiegel. Comparable to Newsweek magazine in the US, Der Spiegel reports on political issues and current events. But Sparagana isn't merely interested in the passing particularities of the summer of 2009. He works to liberate the pages from the specificity of the story at hand, distilling them down to the aesthetic format of the medium and elevating them to the level of universal human narratives. We all pick up magazines and newspapers and open them up. Inside we find vivid news images and descriptive texts that leave us with a cursory sense of having connected to another place or event. Sparagana 'opens up' his magazines in a completely different way, engaging in a ruminative experience that takes him somewhere most of us don't have the time or proclivity for. He coaxes hidden meanings from an unseen dimension, creating a sort of glossary for abstract meaning or what the artist aptly refers to as "an alternative index in poetic space".
In his 1984 Harvard University lecture series, Working Space, Frank Stella suggested that abstract painting had perhaps never found an adequate substitute for the human figure. The idea that we can only understand an object through the lens of our physical humanness creates an interesting challenge for non-narrative, non-representational paintings. Canadian artist Sasha Pierce has found an intriguing solution to this problem: Clothing.
As an artist, Pierce has always had an interest in fashion and how the clothes we wear define our bodily experience. The six paintings in her show at CTRL don't necessarily suggest fashion or clothing at first glance, but the seed of the idea is there, undoubtedly allowing us to enter the pictorial space on a more physical level. The actual physicality of the paintings also helps. By squeezing thin multi-colored ribbons of oil paint out of a punctured plastic bag, Pierce builds her paintings line by line, forming her patterns incrementally. Up close the lush, scalloped ribbons of paint might be candy or frosting. From farther away they braid together into illusionistic textile swaths. The ease with which her surfaces describe both paint and fabric speaks to her agile wit as well as her technical mastery. Pierce marries the rigorous minimalism of the last century (think Stella's Black Paintings) with the dramatic opulence of Baroque tapestries. She manages all of this with sincerity and a surprising economy of means while perfectly exploiting the direct, material pleasures of paint.
Minimalist sculptor Fred Sandback once said that he had "a strong gut feeling" that he wanted to "be able to make sculpture that didn't have an inside". It's a kind of funny thing to say, since guts are on the inside. But for anyone familiar with his work, taut strands of yarn stretched from wall to ceiling to floor, it makes perfect sense. Houston based artist Katy Heinlein seems compelled by similar urges. Her sculptures also don't really have insides. They do have skeletons, but no guts. Though that's not to say that they aren't gutsy. Using the simplest of materials (fabric, plywood, stitching and screws) Heinlein makes sculptures that are as dynamic as they are elegant. Her site-dependent constructions drape and flow in places and are pulled taut in others, playfully exploring the mechanics of tension, balance and gravity. Her distinct palette of fabrics sets up neon pinks and electric yellows against more neutral grays and deep browns. Yet while color, form and space are important factors, there is also a distinct narrative presence and a certain anthropomorphic quality to Heinlein's work. In her own smart, contemporary way, Heinlein mixes it all up a little and makes flirtatious, promiscuous sculpture that gives generous reach-arounds to the heroes of minimalism.
John Sparagana lives and works in Houston and Chicago and is Professor of Painting and Drawing at Rice University, Houston. He received his MFA (1987) from Stanford University and has since exhibited extensively at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago and The Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City. His work is currently on view at The Hyde Park Art Center in the exhibition and accompanying book "Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture". Sparagana is represented by CTRL gallery, Houston.
Sasha Pierce lives and works in Toronto and received her MFA (2004) from The University of Waterloo, Ontario, CA. Pierce has upcoming shows at ACME, LA, Musee D'Art Contemporain, Montreal and Power Plant, Toronto. She has received numerous grants and awards and she is a finalist in the 2009 RBC Canadian Painting Competition.
Katy Heinlein lives and works in Houston, TX and received her MFA (1999) from Texas Tech University. She has had solo shows at Women and Their Work, Austin, Lawndale Art Center, Houston and CTRL gallery, Houston. She was winner of the 2007 William and Dorothy Yeck National Young Sculptors Purchase Award, Miami University, Juried by Mary Ceruti, Executive Director of The Sculpture Center. Heinlein is represented by CTRL gallery, Houston.