Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Mitchell Wright: us --Pen and Paper, 2010

    The first thing that confronts the viewer is the sheer size of the work. At roughly 17’x7’, the scale of the drawing is mammoth. It seems to willfully lure the viewer into picturing not the work itself, but rather the artist who stayed up for very long nights bringing the piece into existence, stitching inchoate patterns together, creating seams and nexuses and junctions, where liquid drips run and dissolve into tediously shaded conch-like shells, and all is lightlessness. us was constructed entirely using uniball pens – hundreds of them. From right to left, Wright’s drawing – or painting, more precisely – incorporates weave-like pen and ink textures into indefinite forms, all in a piece that seems to revel in its formlessness. So there are some disturbing ironies at play here: that us is a celebration in austerity yet is oddly soothing; the way the light plays off the shading is mesmerizing, yet this massive, black monolith should trouble the viewer. It is mesmerizing because it is a cool and lucidly beautiful rendering of what I take to be chaos – say, the universe prior to the “big bang” – a void made manifest, seeking textures and shapes and forms, only for them to run liquidly down into nothing, but a nothing that folds back into a composite form only to careen off into a brief panoply of light that appears and is gone.
    I have been looking at this piece for a long time. I have decided to read it almost narratologically, like an alien tapestry, from right to left. From the right side of the work, jellyfish-like forms melt into the scene, the voided dark. The eye follows a cartwheeling rope unfolding itself, braided and out of sensical proportion, terminating in the middle of the work. Conical projections angle awkwardly, almost suggesting a calmness, a place where the immaterial takes shape. But this brief assemblage is short-lived, as the scene descends into a blacker void, one more desperate and visceral. Then even the void itself is consumed into meaninglessness. Up at the top left corner, Wright has written the words, “We Die.”
    It is not a nihilistic work. Taken as a whole it is an overwhelming, forceful glimpse into – perhaps – art itself, tenaciously convincing itself of the veracity of an otherwise confusing, confounding dream that cannot be true, yet where is the contradiction? Yes, almost like a work struggling, in its sheer size and detail and tediousness, to dare a contradiction. It is a powerful statement, perhaps most beautiful to me because I could have gotten all of it totally wrong.

us, in progress