Michele Hemsoth | BREATHE

Michele Hemsoth BREATHE


SARDINE is pleased to present BREATHE, a solo exhibition by Michele Hemsoth. It opens Saturday, November 15, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 pm. It will be open through December 14, 2014.

On the occasion of BREATHE, SARDINE asked art historian Vittorio Colaizzi to introduce her works: Michele Hemsoth’s paintings and drawings meet us at the nexus of image and idiom, where specific visual experience stands out in relief from categorical knowledge. It would be easy to verbally approximate what she does, but each of her works acts as a polemic against approximation. Rather than a Mobius strip of endless figure/ground vacillation, Hemsoth in fact presents an abundantly clear, stark figure. It is only once this figure is established that its primacy gives way to doubts, as the surrounding space intervenes with ballooning, tapering encroachments. Some of these forms may suggest Swiss cheese, kidneys or ersatz surrealism, but it is less important what her forms look like, or even that they look like something, but that they look at all. What counts is that she invents an image instead of strategizing an idiom. Decades of painting have led Hemsoth to her concise and arguably elemental vocabulary, yet she has resisted the mandate to subordinate pictorial content to spatial or discursive context. Far from practicing a naïve retro-modernism, Hemsoth makes an historically-informed argument for possibility, even disruptive possibility, in abstraction.

Abstraction’s greatest fear is to become a repository of unconstrained yet undistinguished invention, invention without necessity, without tension. Rather than setting up machines that make the art in order to evade this fear, Hemsoth blasts straight through it with pictorial intelligence as her only weapon. Despite occasional traces of previous states in her extravagantly, one might say disjunctively textured surfaces, we would be mistaken to regard Hemsoth’s paintings as arbitrary stoppages in an endless process of formal noodling. She paints and repaints her configurations in order to stress that, as she has put it, “I really mean this.” In this she is notable because after the critique of authorship, few artists really mean anything. Bets are hedged with processes that court accident and evade agency. By contrast, Hemsoth finds it urgent to assert her agency as a consciousness at work, and invites, but does not compel the viewer to witness and inhabit this work of consciousness.

Vittorio Colaizzi holds an MFA in painting and a PhD in art history from Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently he is an assistant professor of art history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. His monograph on Robert Ryman is forthcoming from Phaidon.

Michele Hemsoth lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions since the early 1980s. This is her first solo exhibition in New York.