gallery neptune & brown Presents Storytelling Group Exhibition

By Editorial Team on September 13, 2021
William Kentridge, The Lulu Plays, 2015, Linocut, set of four prints accompanying The Lulu Plays by Frank Wedekind, Edition of 40, Sheet size: 24 3/4 x 19 1/4 inches.
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 11
On view through October 16

gallery neptune & brown is pleased to present Storytelling, a group exhibition of portfolios by Christiane Baumgartner, Adam Pendleton, William Kentridge, Per Kirkeby, Kiki Smith, Mickalene Thomas, and Peter Downsbrough. Portfolios could be compared to the novel. The novelist uses chapters to build the themes and characters which make up a story. A portfolio is used in much the same way, using each print to create a story out of individual images or moments.

William Kentridge’s work uses the narrative structures of storytelling and the performing arts to create his prints. The Lulu Plays is a portfolio based on work created for the opera of the same name by Alban Berg. Kentridge creates an interplay between the narrative structure of the opera and the visual interpretation of the characters’ motivations. On the other end of the spectrum is Christiane Baumgartner. She describes herself as a conceptual artist. The act of art-making is in the conception and experimentation in each series. It is then up to the viewers to impose their own story onto the work. Also a conceptual artist, Peter Downsbrough takes from the built environment and uses visual poetry to affect the viewers perception of space and time. Like a poet might use blank spaces in the presentation of a poem, Downsbrough’s work creates similar tension between text, shapes, and empty space.

Mickalene Thomas’ portraiture provides a counter-narrative to historical portraiture. In Trois Divas, she focuses on black women or “muses” as she calls them, to convey images of complexity, empathy, and exuberance. Thomas employs the visual vocabulary of “traditional” western art history. Influenced by the compositions and structures in the work of artists like Eduard Manet and Henri Matisse, Thomas creates this nuanced story of black life so often marginalized in art history and Euro-American history. Adam Pendleton’s Not Against the Memories is an intertextual piece, in conversation with David Lamela’s The Violent Video Tapes (1975), a fictional film about the language of cinema. In Pendleton’s three prints, the color is altered from the original black and white. The result is a story about a woman isolated from the context around her and how her image is manipulated into commercial use or social commentary – both themes that run through Pendleton’s oeuvre.

A Brothers Grimm-like sense of dis-ease pervades Kiki Smith’s work. From the early 90s, Smith’s focus turned toward the effects climate change had on nature. Smith addresses this preoccupation in Variety Flowers by imbuing the flowers with a delicate posture. Per Kirkeby, a Danish artist who originally trained as a geologist, also constructs tales of the natural world. He talks about his practice as using canvas as his land and the paint as the soil, the flowers, and the other natural elements that grow from the land.

While a story can be told on one canvas or in one print, these portfolios allow for deeper exploration. Concept albums, novels, short story and poem collections all use similar structures to dig into a particular theme. As Joan Didion said, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” The root of the statement was one of survival. Deeper than using stories to entertain, we use storytelling to weave together imagery and to get to the “ideas” that course through human experience.

gallery neptune & brown is located at 1530 14th Street NW.