Dawn Clemets' best work very literally takes over space, replacing architectural surfaces and tangible forms with her infinitesimal versions, which compel us to explore. Neither completely realist in their meticulousness, nor strictly conceptual in their project, the biggest sprawling ink drawings flow over connected sheets of paper, covering entire walls and galleries with tracking shot-like vistas of other views, other rooms. Given sufficient space to grow—there is, indeed, something very organic and vine-like to the way her largest drawings stretch over and up walls—Clements' work is arresting in its vision, and captivating in its detail.
The Brooklyn-based artist's incredible piece in the 2010 Whitney Biennial
portrays a succession of rooms as glimpsed in a panning camera movement from the 1946 Barbara Stanwyck film My Reputation
. Unfortunately that work, Mrs. Jessica Drummond's ('My Reputation,' 1946)
(2010), tucked behind a room-sized sculpture by Hannah Greely
, loses much of its power in the Biennial's busy installation. Clements gets all the room she needs, however, in her spectacular exhibition Recent Work
at The Boiler
in Williamsburg (through May 7).
The new drawings aren't simply taking advantage of the soaring industrial space, however; the three-piece exhibition's largest work, "Boiler" (2010, approx. 18' by 38', above), uncannily doubles the rusted boiler that it shares the gallery with, offering a new way of seeing the thing that gallery visitors can see plainly right next to them. It's an interesting substitution or superimposition, at once brashly postmodern and typically Gothic, like so many of Clements' grand, ornate compositions. As opposed to her Biennial piece, which was drawn with fine ball-point pen lines in varying densities to create areas of shade and light, the thick strokes of Sumi ink used for "Boiler" give each line a weight and fluidity that seem especially appropriate given the subject. The streaks of ink are tightly cross-hatched in the body of the boiler, giving it a tangible, rough-hewn texture that becomes gradually more sparse and delicate as lines fall away and the drawing becomes more like a net or latticework. Her "Boiler" conveys mass and weightlessness at once in a manner reminiscent of the most immensely delicate of Elliot Hundley
's sculptural assemblages.
Hung on two walls and over a corner of the gallery, the climbing, dissolving work seems literally to evaporate as we follow its apparent progression from right to left, beginning with the dark, hulking form of the boiler tank and ascending via a series of ladders, railings and valves. The crinkled texture of the massive paper—which evokes the similar folds in the work of Kiki Smith
—suggests a three-dimensional form sliced open and laid out. One wonders whether Clements didn't actually drape these monumental sheets of paper onto the actual boiler, trace its various lines and ridges, and then unfold it onto the wall. Whereas pieces in her Film and Television
series clearly adopted the camera's point of view into a different kind of two-dimensional image, the floating, indeterminate perspective moving over "Boiler" remains mysterious, practically ghostly.