Pleasure & Pain

Pleasure & Pain
28 August – 12 October 2014
Curated by Kirsten Nash

Pleasure & Pain

Jodi Hays
Lori Hinrichsen
Nancy Hubbard
Deanna Lee
Jennifer Palmer
Melissa Staiger
Cecilia Whittaker-Doe
Becky Yazdan

“The word plasticity thus unfolds its meaning between sculptural molding and deflagration, which is to say explosion. From this perspective, to talk about the plasticity of the brain means to see in not only the creation of form but also an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model”
-Catherine Malabou, “What Should We Do with Our Brain”

Pleasure & Pain is an on-line group exhibition of abstract painters who grapple with meaning and context in the decades after the so-called “death of painting”, or “specifically the death of abstract painting”*. Artist were invited to share their personal experience of creating works by assigning them to a category of either pleasurable creative play or painful struggle to resolve, while examining their process for arriving at a finished work.

The works in this exhibition engage in a process of continuous oscillation between creation and deflagration, thought and visceral experience, material form and self-expression. Looking at the pieces side by side, it is often hard to tell which is pleasure and which is pain. Each artist seems to take the ups and downs in stride, reacting to the moment, then pushing forward until a piece is finished, as they move on to the next work.

My question, is this: given the cultural, economic, political realities of our time, it is difficult to imagine how art could provide inspiration for progress and doorways to a more humane way of existing. If you believe that ideas originate in art and creativity, then does it follow that embracing happiness, pleasure, and creative joy can lead to works of not only social and cultural significance, but also serve as a model for resistance and change? And, would moving our practices towards the pleasure scale translate that positivity to the greater audience? Or, perhaps the act continuing to make abstract painting in the postindustrial era is, in itself, an act of defiance and an act of liberty. To quote Camus, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy”.

One final note, the call for participation was distributed to the galleryELL circle, which is about 40% men and 60% women. 100% of the submissions came from women. This was a big surprise.

*Yves Alain Bois, Painting:The Task of Morning

Exhibition gallery: click on an image to view the exhibition.
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Pleasure & Pain notes by John Ros:

Like love & hate, pleasure & pain are carnal emotions and reactions in which lines are often blurred. All too often we may fall into a trap of excess — relying too much on one or the other. When dealing with these powerful energies, one must tread lightly and often look to the opposite instinct or emotion to motivate ourselves to the next step.

The most courageous and inspired studio practice is filled with both pleasure & pain. Artists must learn to relish in success while never ceasing to challenge — a balancing act that is at once exhausting and exhilarating. Artists are bombarded by a multitude of information and must learn to curate what to let in — all while accepting luck, shortcomings and successes. It is a tumultuous life, and I do not say this to sound romantic, rather, to begin to unravel the strenuous activity of being an artist.

Pleasure comes and goes, as does pain. In an ever-moving culture of constant gratification, we must allow ourselves the freedom to feel pain. The knowledge from defeat can bring about new movement. That said, we must also learn to accept our successes. Though the industry may say that success looks a certain way, WE are the creatives… WE get to trek our own paths of success. And we must enjoy each and every moment of it.

Pleasure & pain, like love & hate,  trickle through us all. They battle each other. They define our shape — In memories, past and present. In spaces, near and far. In thoughts, of yesterday and tomorrow. Acceptance is the key to unlock each and every moment. Awareness is the ability to turn the key and walk through to the other side.

I want to thank Kirsten Nash for assembling this thoughtful exhibition and I want to thank the artists for their endless commitment.

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