YEAR ONE At Castelli Art Space- A collaboration between Loren Philip and Tomoaki Shibata. Curator- Peter Frank
I had the good fortune to slip into Castelli Art Space in Los Angeles 24 hours after the opening reception for ‘Year One’, a collaboration of large paintings by Loren Philip and Tomoaki Shibata, curated by Peter Frank.
At first glance, the larger than life canvas drop-cloths adorned with paint daubs, gestural markings and ink shadows over raw cotton weave, appeared as if they were all segments of one screen cut apart and hung separately. But, that sort of read is a method of programming our brains use to identify information quickly; Neurons responsible for cognition take a snapshot and the quick read can render a moment far more shallow than it actually is.
I was surprised to have the space to myself. Well, almost. Director, Carlos Iglesias explained that the reception was the previous night and that he and Loren Philip were there to document and prepare for an upcoming write up. Both were gracious and didn’t mind my presence as I quietly moved among references of fragmented figures and frosted color. My retina flipped back and forth between surface dimensions and field depths. Some were real. Some were illusion. My first glance, snapshot was dissolved and replaced with various non-verbal conversations between two distinct hands.
Knowing nothing of these two artists was an advantage because I could experience the work without a back-story from either artist to steer my response. Having minimal room within the space to step back or between these large un-stretched panels, activated my perceptual vision so that it was just as charged as my direct vision. A sense of importance was evoked through the arrangement of the canvases that now included me, just for my being there at their feet. I was dwarfed like a child in a crowd curious about the details that surrounded me. It became apparent that these twelve paintings, as similar as they first appeared, were quite different from one another. In some pieces, the artists’ marks between line and block were polite social confrontations. But others were interruptions between two ends that poked back and forth, the way comfortable friends with opposite characteristics, break into each other’s sentences so that they become kindred and inseparable.
Sunday was All Saints Day. Similar to dios Los Muertos, it's a day to remember family members who have died....except that All Saint's Day is for those put to rest within the year and typically, there are no vibrant parties that take weeks of preparations. A year ago, last month, my mother and sister were buried in a shared grave. Last year, we dropped two stones into the church water for them on All Saints Day although I hadn't submitted their names in advance so they weren't read aloud. This year, I added my sister's and my mother's names to the list of "Saints" that would be read off during service. Saintly-hood is subjective. What is a saint after-all? Is everyone deserving of the title just because they lived, died and left who loved them- someone who added their name to the list?
My daughter and I waited behind the last pew, while a small sect from the bell choir chimed with each name called. Families and friends who submitted names, stood when their deceased was called and joined the moving line. Pastor Jen Strickland and Pastor Jacob Buchholz took turns reading names that were once said daily, but through their passings, would not be heard often. And one by one the hurting people walked down the center isle and plunked a small blue-glass stone into a translucent vase of water.
The surnames were alphabetical. Renee and my mother would not be far apart from one another. I squatted and whispered to my daughter that it was a special day when we remember her aunt and grandma, knowing that her understanding of them came mostly from pictures and stories. Julius, who is filled with direct memories of them stayed in the pew with Lilac and his aide. I pointed to the names on the list for my daughter to follow along and when it was time, I stood, took her hand and we began our calm decent. The atmosphere was meditative, the bells chimed softly one at a time. The clunk of stone into water resonated in the air and our line of quiet people stepped forward down the center isle with wet eyes and heavy hearts. My daughter noticed how the eyes of people in the pews followed her as we passed. Then she looked up at me and asked, "Mamma, are we dead?"