Fixed Necessities: New Works by Rebecca Tennenbaum ~ Summer of Love 2012 Exhibition Series

June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The ~curARTorial LAB, a collaborative art space founded and directed by independent curator Anabelle Rodriguez-Lawton, is poised to launch its Summer of Love 2012 Exhibition Series with:

Fixed Necessities: New Work by Rebecca Tennenbaum

AR-L: Rebecca Tennenbaum’s work came to my attention as an unexpected and delightful surprise during a couple of studio visits to fellow painter and current studio mate Kate Perkins. Seen together, the artists’ emerging work made an impact so crisp, clear, and direct, that I offered consecutive B.A.O. (By Appointment Only) exhibitions, with public receptions during First Friday, and Second Thursday during the months of July and August. Both shows are being staged in a room aptly named The Malkovich.

The Malkovich  is an hypnotic, meditative A-frame attic room atop a 19th Century Catholic School in the West Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA. Notwithstanding recent massive renovations conducted by Crane Arts, LLC, the school has remained alive in more than spirit: classroom partitions remain, original blackboards run continuously along most classroom walls, many preserved windows let in enormous amounts of natural light, all the way down to the wooden lockers in the middle of one of the halls, and a pigeon cooped room labeled “Nurse’s Office” with original wooden cabinets. More than once I have heard visitors say “this place is definitely haunted”, and if so they must be beneficent spirits ~ it’s been nothing but good times in here.

The opportunity to launch the Summer of Love 2012 Exhibition Series with Rebecca Tannenbaum’s new work in the ~LAB @ the Malkovich is simply ideal.


Anchor – latex, mylar, cotton on wood panel – 2012

Tennenbaum’s work exhibits surprising combinations of more or less malleable materials into three dimensional wall-bound installations. Effectively functioning as manipulated surface sculptures, these complex paintings are acted upon by gravity in controlled, graceful ways. The result is often inventive, always daring, and ever fresh, while remaining an elegant solution to the play in tension portrayed in each of the delicate yet weighty pieces.

The Protective Welcome – latex, mylar, spandex on wood panel – 2012

There is more than surface treatment here. Often ambiguous combinations are pregnant with significance that ought to be carefully considered, then admired. You don’t want to miss this one…

Launch – latex, mylar and cotton on wood panel – 2012

A copy of Tennenbaum’s senior thesis, recently defended at The University of the Arts, reflects simple and sublime, humble revelation. I include it in its entirety as part of this ongoing post about her new work for The ~curARTorial LAB Summer of Love 2012 Exhibition Series. An exclusive interview with the artist will soon follow.

~@/Anabelle Rodriguez-Lawton ~ 6.19.12

The Tumbling Dice

Rebecca Tennenbaum

“You’ve got to roll me, and call me the tumbling dice.” – The Rolling Stones

I traveled once in Morocco accompanied by my mother, father, and sister. I was 9 years old and had been fighting a losing battle with head lice. I thought I’d ended the unfortunate experience in the States, but found they had returned somewhere between Fez and Marrakesh. One humid evening, in a large-windowed hotel room in Rabat, I began the familiar process of spreading the thick foam through my hair and waiting for the creatures, inconspicuous as dust, to appear and be combed through to their death. The lice began to emerge just as the day’s fifth and final Islamic call to prayer began to sound through the city. I stared at myself in the mirror, allowing the lice to come forward while the prayer lulled the day to an end.

I felt the burn of the treatment radiate from my scalp while the sounds of prayer caused the air to have a thicker density. I was caught somewhere between the two realities of the awakening lice and the hushing of the city, the leader and destroyer of one civilization and the silent outsider of another. This unexpected duality caused me to undergo a new surrounding, while physically I was in the same spot I had been minutes before. This is my earliest memory of the alignment of sensory experiences removing me from familiarity and placing me into a state of heightened awareness.

Reflection on this memory raises the desire to achieve the same removal again, as it remains the only true uncanny experience I’ve ever had. The nature of why it occurred is rooted in many elements (being a child, being in a foreign country, etc.) but it holds place in my adult life as a reminder of the capabilities I carry within myself for transcendence into the unknown. I aim to share a fraction of the realities of life through my painting practice, giving viewers an opportunity to associate and reflect on their own lives through the fragments of my own.

The core fact of existence rests in the consistency of change, the exploration of the physical environment, and the growth of the mind. Through awareness of sensory experience and the solidification of experience into paintings, I track my own participation as an individual, marking the moments as they are encountered, acknowledged, and left to the past.

I believe that beauty resides in the impermanence of my own sensation and should be acknowledged as it reveals itself. The revealing comes naturally when elemental forces of physical matter align with deliberate action and choice of the individual. I am merely a spectator of the passage of time, facing the fundamental duality of conscious existence; the external environment I am left to physically explore versus the internal monologue, infinite through its malleability.

My paintings confront this duality, existing as unified alignments of sensations specific to remembered experiences. Layers of latex paint on acetate grounds metaphorically serve as the various elements of the remembered experience, both mental and physical. These elements of time are trapped through the hand-made marks and color choices, allowing each painting to contain the activity of a remembered experience and embraced through its impermanence.

Perception is the link of finding beauty by internalizing our surroundings, allowing personal associations to be determined. Faber Birren, a renowned 20th century color theorist, stated that color comes before form and the two cannot be separated; yet color is more immanent, elemental and primitive than form in perception. Response to form seems to arouse mental (judgment of shape) or physical (sensation of touch) processes, while reactions to color are more impulsive and emotional. (Birren pg 57)

It is through the registration of color, form, and sensory experience that I am able to channel my awareness of being into a daily studio undertaking. Psychological meeting of color with conscious experience allows the colors to signify and be associated with as they are encountered in the world. Color is unavoidable to perceiving as perception is essential and endless to time, and I can accept the passing of time by acknowledging sensations as they occur and coincide with the activity of the mind.

The Weber-Fechner law of the Gestalt theory of Psychology states that the relationship between the external physical facts of environment are linked with human consciousness. The intensity of a sensation increases as the logarithm of the strength of the stimulus increases, causing the correlation between physical stimuli with physical and mental experience.

Nature loses face as the precursor of beauty. More importantly, if there is beauty in nature, it exists pre-born within the consciousness of man. “There is no form apart from the subject who forms it. Man’s sense of beauty is not wholly a matter of inspiration or cultural training, natural law or mathematics. If he happens to see beauty in certain arrangements, this is not because there are any hard and fast principles in nature aside from human consciousness, but that perception itself, the eye-brain of man, holds responsibility for everything. If there are any eternal elements of harmony, they owe their origin to human consciousness.” (Birren pg 14)

According to this theory, the impulse I experience in remembering certain moments over others are results of my accumulated memories of surroundings and sensations. Through these stored associations, I am able to find significance in particular arrangements that trigger my mind to isolate, capture and secure the current situation without questioning the source of the impulse. This process inevitably links the present with the past, allowing the chains of associations to intertwine and thicken with the passing of time.

In the following passage, painter Lynda Benglis describes the nature of marking time through material, and the grasp on time that she achieves through the act of pouring paint directly on the ground. The simultaneous relationship between thought and action resonates with my process of mark making while engaging in the remembrance of the chosen experience:

“I think Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis were really playing with this idea of the accident…But it’s really a marriage between the conscious and the unconscious that occupies the creative mind…I saw visions of clouds yesterday; you couldn’t imagine how complicated they were on all horizons, the kinds of images of the clouds are infinite, I think we deal with an infinite imagination. The artist is always dealing with the bounds of the material and the unbounded nature of the universe and of the imagination, and trying to mark the time.” (Frieze)

Lynda Benglis’ “Odalisque” paintings pay homage to second generation Abstract Expressionist Helen Frankenthaler’s stain paintings, where the stain is the event that signifies the moment. For Frankenthaler, the canvas was the arena in which the activity was created and contained and where the events played out. I echo these ideas of “action” painting by using paint to mark the passing of time, breaking down my experience into color fields controlled through movement. Using the bottom of the can as my primary tool instead of a brush activates time directly in the seconds that the liquid is released, allowing gravity to dictate the production with specific hand movements.

The plasticity of my materials functions in two fundamental ways; it confirms the artificiality of a recreated sensation and places my work in the contemporary world. Although my processes run parallel to the predecessors of Abstract Expressionism, my material choices in plastic and mass-production confirm that my paintings could only be created in our modern day.

The activity of each color remains isolated and suspended in its field of acetate. The slightest boundary between the work and the world, it is the thinnest amount of protection holding the entire weight of the mark. I reveal a false sense of a private connection with the piece by showing the immaculate surface to the viewer, bound by the outermost layer of acetate without exposing the physical evidence of the dried paint.

 The fixed color arrangements I encounter during waking moments are internalized and called upon when reflecting on remembered sensations of experience, linking objects and artifacts through association. Therefore, the colors individualized on the acetate are able to mimic moments of physical life. Colors live as their own atmospheres, never to be reproduced identically.

These components collectively rest on an even color field; a shape associated with an element of the remembered event or perceived sense. The fields are visual triggers, referencing the physical world in which they are derived from while providing solid planes that hold the product. Sincere in their accountability, the grounds are the base planes of the external.

It is through the alignment of the colors that the reconstruction of a precise setting and sensation is possible, even if the colors can be linked to other sensations. In this way, the recreation of a particular moment is also the recreation of previously existing moments, both verifying and counteracting the meaning of any given situation.

The paintings are made as exterior expressions of interior states. Once created, they become facts of the physical world. The viewer experiences and interprets the paintings as a part of the exterior, only to internalize them. Through the internalization, the viewer’s own associations are triggered, the varying interpretations of different viewers allowing for new chains of association to be created. Once the paintings remain to be seen, my process is transferred from myself to others, filtering experiences of color through change and time.

A day at the beach; I make the choice to submerge myself underwater, releasing the familiar connection to gravity and disappearing into a greater mass than myself. Yet through my exiting the water the land reaccepts me as my own mass, roaming the territory as I choose. The re-emergence onto the sand allows my skin to absorb the sun, aware of the slow progression into dryness as my body is awakened. If I close my eyes and turn towards the sun, the measureless plane of the sky disappears and my eyelids instantly become a more intimate field of red, a sensation providing a womb-like comfort. The field shifts when the flatness is obstructed by shade that is bound to appear, as the Earth never fails to rotate.

My awareness is fixed on the duration of time from wet to dry, and the moving red shadows on my eyelids that remain to be examined. Both are transitional states, yet without the stillness of my body I would not be able to account for their happening. The awareness of these happenings is linked to the emotive thoughts and self-reflections occurring simultaneously, linking the internal and external.

The ground is a color close to that of my own flesh, on a square shape to represent the balance of the human form. The first layer of acetate holds the activity of the sun on my skin, the flesh color reappearing and colliding with the warm yellow that is a condensed liquid form of the sun. The two cans are turned over at the same time and begin to provoke each other’s positions, moving with each hand and activate the passing seconds, the marks produced accordingly. The second layer of acetate aligns the scene; the gray circle, infinite in its motion, hovers over the sun on skin and solidifies the moment.

-Birren, Faber. Color, Form, and Space. New York: Reinhold Pub., 1961. Print.

-“Harold Rosenberg (American Art Critic).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/509899/Harold-Rosenberg

-Frieze Magazine | Archive | Time & Tide. Lynda Benglis. Frieze. http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/time-tide/

A Note of Interest about The ~curARTorial LAB @ the Malkovich:

The recently named Crane Arts Old School (CAOS), has been refurbished into impressive working studio spaces by Crane Arts, LLC, thanks to grants directed at the renewal of West Kensington, one of The City of Philadelphia’s once mightily powerful, and now largely deindustrialized port sectors devoted to manufacture and trade. CAOS is the current home of:

The ~curARTorial LAB @ The Malkovich
New Art Research & Promotion
Crane Arts Old School, Studio 3A
1417-1425 N. 2nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19122
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