WOOL//NOOL explores fiber-based works by New York-based artists, Eric Helvie and Matthew Larson. In these works, both artists deliberately undermine received ideas about painting and weaving by removing themselves through the act of conscious making: one through autobiographical intuitive creation, the other through self-concealed process-oriented work.
Eric Helvie’s Pipe Smokers and Bleed Through series stand in stark visual and conceptual contrast to the artist’s photorealistic works. The same "hand" that is concealed by photographic illusion is revealed through direct mark making and quite literally present in the “smoker's" emoji-based hand gestures, painted from life and modeled on the structure of Helvie’s free hand as he paints with the other. The pipe-smokers themselves are created out of intuitive association, allowing abstract shapes to dictate and recall their own final reference, which lately has landed in the territory of Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko, Greedo from Star Wars, Angus Young from AC/DC, and most recently, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Taking advantage of the permeability of raw, unprimed canvas and the impermeability of latex based gesso, Eric Helvie’s new “bleed through” paintings function as both heroic abstractions and mysterious surfaces. The paint is allowed to “bleed through” the canvas and in so doing transfers a ghostly image onto the opposite side. It is this ghostly side that hints at but never fully reveals the artist’s hand, which remains quite literally “behind the scenes.”
Through strict, process-based methods and parameters, Matthew Larson deliberately obfuscates and conceals the artist’s hand. Larson’s two-dimensional fiber works take on the appearance of detailed, multi-colored, weavings. Through the use of Velcro and wool yarn, the artist systematically joins each thread to create a patterned fabric. The two dimensional hangings allude to a nonexistent warp-and-weft of traditional tapestry while exposing the temporal relationship between the yarn and Velcro. In the artist’s newest work, Stack, the use of hand-bleached yarn creates a calming void, highlighting where pigment once was. Through these contemporary weaving techniques, Larson brings a fresh approach to the trajectory of traditional tapestry in art history. His systematic layering conceals the artist’s hand while revealing the impactful, yet fragile, nature of the works.