Swarm Gallery is pleased to present new work by Sarah A. Smith and Shawn Bitters, on view from May 28 - July 3, 2011. Opening Saturday, June 4, 2011 6-8pm.
For her exhibition In the Bracken, Sarah presents new gold leaf and corrosive drawings on paper. Sarah's fascination with antique objects and the look of old things has led to this series that compositionally unfolds like mythical landscapes. She uses animal symbolism and composite gold leaf as the element to reflect our materially excessive times back at us, and the impact our excess has on the environment.
Real gold adorns buildings like City Hall and places of concentrated power - statehouses, cathedrals, palaces and residences of the wealthy. In her drawings, Sarah uses imitation gold leaf that was mined and manufactured in China. She doesn't treat it like a precious metal. Instead, she literally corrodes, tarnishes and destroys it with a real chemical process. All the dark brown brushwork is made this way, by dipping her brush into a jar of diluted copper sulfate and etching all her marks into the shiny surface of the metal. What is left on the paper is the end result of an acidic reaction - an accelerated oxidation of elements. What takes decades, centuries or millennia to turn in nature, she is making happen in her studio in seconds. By using this toxic and unforgiving treatment on "gold", her intention is to convey that our belief in commerce-driven empires is treacherous. A myth riddled with holes, disintegrating before our very eyes.
In conjunction with In the Bracken, Shawn Bitters will install new paper works in the project space. In the short story, "Signs and Symbols" by Vladimir Nabokov, a character believes that Nature is communicating directly to him through the arrangment of clouds, a network of branches; in everything he sees. Mankind has a long history of reading nature, whether it is through soothsayers, prophets, or scientists. The pair of rockfall sculptures in the project space at Swarm Gallery are readable geological formations. Each is composed of 26 paper stones, one for each letter of the alphabet, multiplied hundreds of times in various colors and sizes. Stilled and silent, they tumble through space imbued with a universal, knowable message.