DELPHINE HENNELLY + MIMI JUNG
ON VIEW 02.09.19 - 03.31.19
C A R V A L H O P A R K announces its debut exhibition, featuring Delphine Hennelly (New York) and Mimi Jung (Los Angeles), in the exhibition History Lessons, opening Friday, February 8, from 6 - 9PM. History Lessons boasts a striking and discerning synchronicity of the old and the new. The work in the exhibition has one eye to the past, looking to, but not bound by, the methods and visual vocabularies of textile history. Each artist engages with these histories, most palpably that of tapestries, to articulate singular, and emphatically contemporary, stylistic languages of their own, for which both Hennelly and Jung are increasingly known in the realms of emerging art and design. History Lessons will be on view until March 31.
Hennelly’s figurative paintings are imbued with a sense of aesthetic inquiry and play. A cartoony line gives shape to clouds of flat color, forming stylized couples – looming large against the surface of the canvas – dominating hints of a bucolic setting. Hennelly festoons the top of the scene with Fragonard-esque tree limbs that act as a framing element, while clusters of stones or an accompanying dog, are arranged below, locking the picture plane in place. These natural motifs recall those placed across the surface of a tapestry for continuous visual appeal. At times Hennelly devotes an entire canvas to one such motif. Her allover floral paintings are lively, painterly renderings of the dense, blanketed floral grounds of medieval mille-fleur tapestries.
The scenes – in their declarative flatness and decorative interest – give the sense that these are screens or part of a stage set. One sees the imprints of growing up in a theatre. Hennelly’s parents produced and acted in their own productions, and the idea of drama-as-a-medium or the racks of period costumes – imagined and sewn by her mother – are all here for the viewer. These are not scenes that lend or invite narrative. Hennelly is firstly a formalist. Her iconic figures act as compositional elements through the posterization of forms, reduced to areas of flat uniform color that aligns with abstract painting. In a playful and saccharine palette of high-key pinks and pale blues, with acerbic greens, the paintings work to upend the analogies typically assigned to pastels.
Hennelly’s perpetual repetition of imagery, in and across her work, further breaks the possibility of linear narrative. The use of repetition stems from a desire to negate the figure or rid the iconic image of a singular meaning. Repetition as inherently antithetical to singularity is an idea also played out in the handling and stylization of Hennelly’s motifs, informed by other printed forms – British political cartoons, children’s books, and 18th century British transferware.
The tapestry is most strikingly referenced in the work titled Idylls Are Brief and Various. Hennelly translates the language of the weave into painterly horizontal lines that extend the width of the scene. The brushstrokes carry the tactility of a tapestry’s woven surface – its allover quality, to its frayed and feathered, worn edges is all adeptly conveyed. The painted bands transcend the ornamental language of their source and activate the static image – a trio of two figures with dog that seems to have been lifted from a decorative plate. In the succession of buzzing lines, lending a raster effect, the work returns to the idea of imagery transferred or digitally transmitted.
Jung alters the language of thread in a way that invites questions about the relationship of the geometric confines of weaving to formal vocabularies of abstract painting. Her work expands notions about the construction of pictorial abstraction to include the process of making and tactile experience. It is an understatement to say that Jung’s work successfully frees itself of the decorative character of textiles or the assumptions of what a woven work should be. Engaging the optics of painting, and the tactility and physicality of sculpture, the work is conceived of and exists in the vocabularies of contemporary art disciplines.
The loom holds its place in the conversation in the insistent geometry of Pink to Black Rectangles, with shapes parallel to the frame, referencing both edge and grid, set at intervals dictated by their own width – primary tenets of modernist painting, and particularly of minimalism. The rectangles both materialize and dematerialize in an expansive and magnetic visual field of continuous color. Tonal gradations – pink to black, black to pink – induce an arresting optical sensation, contrary to the rectangles’ flat, locked-in character. The resulting pulse engages theories of Op art, and in doing so, perceptual experience becomes part of the piece.
Surface texture is a palpable medium in Jung’s work. The delicate featheriness of mohair used in the weft tempers the work’s strong physicality. It is an active, seducing quality. Tactility is as expressive in Jung’s work as form and color, and as in Pink to Black Rectangles, the softness of the surface, paired with scale and palette, at once creates an immersive plane that also comes forth to envelope the viewer.
Jung’s Live Edge series abstracts the fixed notion of the grid and the persistent geometric language of the weave. The weft travels through the work with the quality of a drawn line, resulting in forms that are both fixed and fluid. Here Jung isolates the individual strands of the warp, inserting space between, lending the allusion of beams of light radiating between clouds, or in the case of Blush to Tan Ellipse, from the sun itself. The density of form against void, amplified by the surface’s pilosity, confuses the two-dimensionality of the woven plane, inviting a figure/ground division. The voids also lend a sculptural physicality, influencing and engaging the space around, through, and behind the work. The way in which Jung limns space prompts a reconsideration of the woven plane as screen or sculpture, and by exposing the inner structure of the work to affect light, Jung even touches upon architecture.