Lehman exhibit displays cartography-influenced work
A short trip uptown will deliver Hunter students to Lehman College’s surprisingly idyllic campus, where “Contemporary Cartographies,” a group exhibition showing the works of 11 contemporary artists who deal with cartographic imagery, is currently on view.
Several of the featured artists use unconventional materials to deal with the language of map-making. Argentinean artist Isabel Barbuzza’s Suspensions (2005-2009) is a hanging construction of honeycombs made to resemble the continents of North and South America and Africa. Gail Biederman’s You & Me, Together & Apart (2012), a hanging work which references the lines of a map, is made from handmade felt, PVC, and steel. There are even reconstructions of the ubiquitous New York City subway map into small articles of clothing, made by Meredith McNeal.
The stand-out works in the show have a lighter touch which takes them beyond the recognizable map as immediate subject matter. Steven Millar’s Link (2013) is a poetic sculptural installation made from painted wood tiled onto the wall; the wood is attached to a twisted wire bed frame and an inkjet print of some sort of landscape. A pillow and a rock, allegedly from North Carolina, are the final touches, just leaning against the rest of the structure. Link conjures a place in the artist’s memory without making literal references to map-making. Similarly poetic, Doug Beube’s Erosion series, consisting of laboriously cut and layered maps of parts of the world, refers at once to a topographical model, but also becomes a map to an imaginary, Utopian new world itself.
Humorous takes on maps are provided in work by Dahlia Elsayed, Charlie Friedman, and Meredith Kusack. Elsayed’s simple painting on paper, August Landscape (2009), maps out an absurdist meditation between “Fish Tacos,” “Heat Waves,” and “General Chaos” – presumably all elements of Elsayed’s summer experience. In Carpet World & Moon (2007), Friedman has created two globular sculptures, made out of hand-woven carpet and a balloon, whose surfaces resemble a map of the Earth and the moon, respectively. The sculptures are immediately recognizable as their namesakes, but their plush, deflated, and somewhat neglected states bring the objects into the realm of childhood toys. Margaret Cusack’s Wrangler Map (2005), a sewn collage of Wrangler denim logos into the shape of the United States, is a humorously ham-fisted allusion to the consumer and masculine cultures that prevail in America.
“Contemporary Cartographies” is filled with a wide variety of approaches to map-making, some of which take the map as a starting point, while others seem to allude to it in passing. There is a divide in the show between the artists who treat the map as a psychological space and those who are mainly concerned with the physical representation of one. The best works here do both, but no work gets to shine as fully as it deserves, due to the sheer volume of works shown. “Contemporary Cartographies,” while, perhaps intentionally, all-encompassing, jams together artists whose works are actually quite different aside from their relation to maps.
“Contemporary Cartographies” is on view until May 11.