James Castle : An Absence of There Susan York : Primary Forms


62 South Glenwood, Jackson, WY 83001
Thursday 12 July, 5 – 8 pm

Tayloe Piggott Gallery is pleased to present tandem solo shows featuring the works of James Castle and Susan York. The exhibitions will be on view from July 12 through August 26, 2012, and open with a reception from 5 to 8 pm on Thursday, July 12 at Tayloe Piggott Gallery. As curator of “an absence of there,” Tayloe Piggott considered the depth of James Castle’s skill as a draftsman and artist, and thus chose drawings and constructions that resonate as personal and pure, without excess or artifice. The brooding poetry of James Castle’s constructions and drawings contrasts with the subtle tension of Susan York’s graphite sculptures and drawings. Having reached harmony through labor, both artists mesmerize with their mastery of material and form.

James Castle:
Despite his absolute detachment from spoken language (he was born deaf and never learned to read or write), James Castle knew how to take apart the cacophony of life and piece it back together into profound communications. He spent his time dissecting the structures that surrounded him: architectural, commercial, rural. By his genius, printed words become forms to disassemble and reassemble, and his visual world is translated into repetitive form and structure.

Rooted on his family’s farm in Garden Valley, Idaho, Castle had little connection to contemporary currents was except for detritus he salvaged from his family’s general store and post office. His materials were the ephemera of everyday life – cartons, boxes, envelopes – which he drew upon using his signature medium: woodstove soot mixed with spit. Although he had scant access to the art world – historians do know he poured over a Picasso book – there are astonishing parallels between Castle’s art and mainstream movements. The fact that his paper works recall European collages from the early 20th century, or that his use of commercial brands echoes Pop Art, or that his atmospheric landscapes verge on Color Field paintings, makes Castle a modern master and a national treasure.

His totem-like drawings and constructions, a focus of the exhibition, speaks to his fascination with dismantling the world and reconfiguring it through only its essential elements. Each piece channels his innate understanding of architecture and the relationship between shapes and humans within space. Surrounded by rural scenes, the vertical compositions resonate as inanimate or animate landmarks: silos, trees, lone figures even. They converse, and together, speak to Castle’s quest to isolate underlying forms, proportions, and tensions. Frank Del Deo, author of the accompanying catalog’s exhibition essay, “Natural Order,” writes, “Castle continually reminds us that the world each of us inhabits is multilayered and dualistic – impenetrable, yet also composed from fundamentally simple, integrated parts.”

With age, Castle enjoyed a modicum of acclaim from a small group of art connoisseurs, and he lived to see his first solo exhibition in his state capital of Boise in 1963. However, it took more than two decades after his death for the first retrospective of his work to appear at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – a momentous exhibition that established his name, on a national scale. Last year, the Museum Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain presented the first European retrospective of Castle, catapulting his work internationally. Tayloe Piggott Gallery has represented James Castle since 2006 and has released a catalog to accompany this exhibition; in cooperation with James Castle Collection and Archive LP.

Susan York:
Inspired by the expanse of her New Mexico home, artist Susan York makes visceral the experience of scanning thousands of miles of open territory. A confrontation between the physical and psychic, her work requires moving through space she creates to arrive at awareness. Her work is a state of mind, a quality of breath, a moment in time and space.

York is an alchemist; through graphite drawings and sculptures, she conjures a shifting state, when a form moves from two dimensions to three, or the reverse. She asks questions and seeks answers through the meditative nature of her creative process: how can a solid form be dismantled and made flat? How does a flat shape become sculptural?

Consider Corner Column (left), 2008 a sculpture originally conceived as part of the large- scale installation she created for the Lannan Foundation in Sante Fe, NM. The graphite totem hovers inches above the floor, defying gravity. Slightly asymmetrical, the column stirs a subliminal tension between the finite object and the space it inhabits.

Her sculptures, cast in graphite, evolve with effort: she spends days polishing surfaces into deep translucent darkness. A practicing Zen Buddhist, she embraces repetitive action as meditative. “I am mesmerized by the movement of my body rocking back and forth… Through this process, thinking becomes impossible… My brain becomes equal to the rest of my body.”  Her process pulls her in, “like the tides of the ocean.” By working the graphite, she articulates change as a formal element, implied, not stated. “It’s like looking into a pond,” she said. “You see the glassy surface and at the same moment you see through the water into the depths of the pool.”

To explore forms, York draws assiduously. One sculpture may stem from 100 or more drawings, each an investigation of symmetry. Sometimes drawings follow sculpture, or they stand separate and distinct. She approaches paper as a malleable medium, layering graphite, smudging edges, polishing surfaces. The result consists of shadowed forms, atmospheric and mysterious, yet as much a presence as their three-dimensional kin.

Her sculptures and drawings evoke a visceral response – a calm askew. “My hope is that the viewer can taste the calm and sink into the emptiness. At the same time, the works force one into a sublime tension between the beauty of the present moment in the space and the underlying tension of the geometry and material.”

For further information regarding the exhibitions and Tayloe Piggott Gallery, please visit us online at www.tayloepiggottgallery.com or contact us at 307.733.0555 or art@tayloepiggottgallery.com.