A Conversation with Alexandra Grant, Leslie Jones, and Steve Roden at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, September 27

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In Dialogue: A Conversation with Alexandra Grant, Leslie Jones, and Steve Roden

“These Carnations Defy Language” artists Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden discuss their individual sources and processes as well as their collaborative works. Leslie Jones, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA, moderates.

http://pmcaonline.org/programs/in-dialogue-these-carnations-defy-language/

NO RSVP REQUIRED.
Free with admission. Free for PMCA members.

Image: Alexandra Grant, I was born to love not to hate (1) [detail], 2014. Mixed media on paper backed with fabric, 126 x 72 inches. Photo credit: Brian Forrest.

LA Times review of “These Carnations Defy Language” at PMCA

1502-178 -¬ Don Milici

Two artists try to portray the indescribable at Pasadena Museum of California Art

Review by Sharon Mizota

www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-alexandra-grant-steve-roden-pasadena-museum-of-california-art-20150824-story.html

“These Carnations Defy Language,” a two-person exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, is a perfect pairing of local artists Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden.

Both have long been inspired by language, often using it to generate colorful, intensely heartfelt abstractions. Side by side in this gently moving show, their drawings and collages have something of a familial resemblance, deploying dense networks of grids, stripes and triangles with vibrant, organic energy.

The exhibition was inspired by both artists’ engagement with the prose poems of French writer Francis Ponge, who described everyday things like flowers, wasps and soap with unbridled jubilation. Still, despite these raptures (or because of them), he found language inadequate: The exhibition’s truculent title comes from him.

Grant’s and Roden’s works might be said to reverse-engineer Ponge: Where he attempted to capture quotidian wonders in words, they transform language into images that blossom.

Roden often uses textual or musical sources as a kind of “score” for generating imagery, and here he uses an issue of the Italian architecture magazine Domus published in the month and year of his birth.

The resulting drawings and collages often incorporate clippings from the magazine and refer obliquely to the sleek contours of modern architecture, although Roden builds his images through accretion and improvisation, which gives them a more relaxed, vernacular feel.

“The sky crying is,” features triangular, peek-a-boo cutouts that reveal spare, architectural imagery behind a surface of drippy, hand-painted, multicolored stripes. The image simultaneously evokes structure and defies it.

Especially intriguing is the video “lines and faces,” in which Roden arranges striped paper triangles over a magazine page depicting three famous writers. As Roden aligns and misaligns the stripes over the portraits, we understand the irreducibility of faces: They are always more than the sum of the lines—whether drawn or written—that describe them.

Grant was inspired by Sophocles’ play “Antigone,” whose female protagonist defies political decrees to honor her dead brother. Five large wall pieces are each titled with a line from the play, “I was born to love not to hate.”

Strong stripes and chevrons provide a structural component that plays against the messiness of Rorschach blots and the words of the title in Grant’s trademark mirrored writing. The blots and the words—both bilaterally symmetrical like a body—flicker between legibility and nonsense.

The juxtaposition of hard, geometric shapes and this more indeterminate imagery is an analog, not only for Antigone’s predicament, but for the way text works. Only hard, black letters on a page, it can evoke, as Ponge knew, so much more.

What Roden and Grant are really getting at is meaning itself: how it is made and transmitted and what becomes of it along the way.

Seeing their works together for the first time, I was surprised by their visionary, almost spiritual quality. Although they appear systematic and structured, there is always a human element that escapes description, defies our attempts to pin it down.

Photo credit: John Millici

These Carnations Defy Language opens at PMCA June 13

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Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language”

Opening: Saturday, June 13, 7-9pm

June 14, 2015–November 1, 2015

Pasadena Museum of California Art

http://pmcaonline.org/exhibitions/alexandra-grant-and-steve-roden-these-carnations-defy-language/

Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language” began as a seed, a conversation between the artists regarding an anthology of the French poet Francis Ponge. This exhibition stems from that conversation, which presents new individual and co-created works by Grant and Roden that highlight their use of textual sources and their own conceptual systems to inspire and structure their production.

Grant’s paintings from her new series Antigone 3000 continue her inquiry of literary texts as source material for her imagery. The works in “These Carnations Defy Language” explore and map the Greek myth of Antigone from its original basis in Sophocles’s text to a current exchange on the importance of Antigone to future generations with Pasadena-based poet and artist Kate Durbin. Roden introduces a new body of work titled snowbirds don’t fly. His paintings, drawings, and video respond to various significant childhood images, experiences, and encounters, including Neal Adams’s artistry for issue 85 of DC’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic, a group of Domus magazines found in his father’s basement, and a Hebrew prayer book belonging to his great grandfather.

In addition, the exhibition includes a collaborative series of works on paper that explore a text that has inspired both artists: Francis Ponge’s Mute Objects of Expression, a book of poems from which the exhibition’s title is taken. Pushing the artists’ interests in language and systems beyond the gallery walls, “These Carnations Defy Language” will feature a brochure with an essay by Leslie Jones, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA.

PROGRAMS:

Antigone 3000: Re-imagining Antigone in Word and Art
Saturday, June 20, 2015 | 2:00pm–4:00pm
Pasadena artist and poet Kate Durbin and “These Carnations Defy Language” artist Alexandra Grant are in an ongoing dialogue about the importance of Sophocles’s Antigone. Join Durbin in creating your own version of Antigone’s story in the form of a poetic text and a large collaborative collage, culminating in a dynamic group reading. Free with admission. Free for PMCA members. Space is limited. Email RSVP[at]pmcaonline[dot]org

http://pmcaonline.org/programs/antigone-3000/

Artists’ Walkthrough | “These Carnations Defy Language”
Sunday, June 28, 2015 | 3:00pm
Artists Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden lead a walkthrough of their exhibition “These Carnations Defy Language.” Free with admission. Free for PMCA members.

http://pmcaonline.org/programs/artists-walkthrough-these-carnations-defy-language/

In Dialogue: A Conversation with Alexandra Grant, Leslie Jones, and Steve Roden
Sunday, September 27, 2015 | 1:00pm
“These Carnations Defy Language” artists Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden discuss their individual sources and processes as well as their collaborative works. Leslie Jones, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA, moderates. Free with admission. Free for PMCA members.

http://pmcaonline.org/programs/in-dialogue-these-carnations-defy-language/

Images: Alexandra Grant, I was born to love not to hate (2) [detail], 2014. Mixed media on paper backed with fabric, 126 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo credit: Brian Forrest; Steve Roden, the sky crying is [detail], 2015. Acrylic, sumi ink, collage, and magazine images, 65 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photo: Jeff McLane.