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Those preceding works converted a mode of seeing from one medium (film) into another (drawing), but this spectacular new work bewitches by denying us an identifiable viewing position. Like Cubism, Clements lets us see from multiple perspectives at once. Our vision is fractured and refracted, enhanced but never stable. Her trademark on-the-fly annotations—scribbled messages along the edges of her drawings—might have given some indication, but with the thick Sumi ink these are virtually illegible, and mostly clustered near the top of the 18-feet-tall image. Are we following the movements of the long-gone industrial workers who climbed onto the boiler daily, Clements' own visual course around the imposing piece of architectural equipment, or something else entirely? The impossibility of answering this question adds to the work's richness.
The two other pieces in the exhibition, a relatively tiny still life on several attached sheets of paper and "Ruin" (2009, 12' by 10', above), assume fixed positions and evoke the crisp deep focus cinematography of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane
in their exhaustive details. The latter, from her Domestic Interiors
series, organizes its journey up a staircase and through the second floor of what looks like an abandoned Victorian mansion, around a spectacular, badly damaged crystal chandelier. Clements imbues this towering, twisted, disheveled and off-kilter object with so much character one expects it to break into a jangling song-and-dance number like a household item from Disney's Beauty and the Beast
. This quality of causing viewers to read movement into her images makes Clements' drawings affecting in a very unusual and original way.
Rather than trying to convey dynamism within the forms she depicts, each image is frozen in a diorama-like stillness. By unfolding these suspended vistas carefully, like an amusement park ride through a series of rooms organized for our benefit, each image draws us in, bringing the ink marks to life as our vision travels through and across them--Aleksandr Sokurov's epic tracking shot, Russian Ark
, continually comes to mind. And this in turn bolsters the uncanny feeling one has looking at Clements' work, the impression of seeing an inanimate space come to life from someone or something else's point of view, or of being suddenly endowed with a completely disembodied vision. This new exhibition at The Boiler allows these qualities in her work to develop in unexpected, soaring directions, and makes the viewer eager to follow her through every ink mark and liner note. With an impressive showing in the Biennial and this wonderful two-dimensinal architectural installation, Dawn Clements' career seems poised to boil over into full-fledged art stardom.
(photos courtesy the artist, Pierogi Gallery)