Asya Geisberg Gallery is proud to present “Unruly”, the third solo exhibition of Allison Gildersleeve. Comprised of large paintings and ink drawings, “Unruly” posits the interconnectedness of painting and drawing in the artist’s practice. In her newest works, instead of close views of forest or meadow we see intertwined stems or thistle, based on weeds that erupt alongside roads in the artist’s frequent peregrinations. Seldom seen, let alone observed at length or serving as inspiration, these forlorn plants grow in a liminal space between “Nature” and “Culture”, between pavement and speeding highways, and the clarity of the forest’s isolation. In monochromatic ink or chroma-rich paint, Gildersleeve repeats, leaves unfinished, or refurbishes ragged tangles into bead-like orbs or elegant lines. As always, scale is left murky, so we are unsure if we are looking from a mouse’s perspective or an eagle’s. Without the prior work’s underpinnings of art historical representations and idealizations, Gildersleeve’s new focus beckons a reappraisal of her oeuvre, as the artist mines jagged outlines and wayward clumps of greenery to create elaborate hard-to-read compositions. The known remains only to guide our eye as the artist’s physicality reigns, while she brushes, scrapes or wipes areas. The resulting canvases show a new flatness in allowing washy layers to faintly overlap, and yet still throb with density and variety.
While always committed to a separate body of work in drawing and prints, this is the first time the artist has covered her studio wall from floor to ceiling with drawings, as part storyboard, part daily exercise, part recurring touchstone. The exhibition will recreate the wall, as the viewer, absorbing the numerous versions of the same subject matter, begins to see lines of attack. The bare bones of the drawings become X-rays of the paintings, whose chaotic rich surfaces belie the skeletal underpinning. Each drawing suggests a discrete timed action, while the paintings argue for no endpoint or beginning, rather a spiraling of motifs and marks.
As the artist states, In this scrappy vegetation, I see a story of struggle. Stems may be tangled or windblown but they’re also rooted, defiant. These untended beings, taking hold in the most inhospitable of places, stand in for other neglected life forms who depend on sheer tenacity to thrive. Our country’s democracy fractured while I made this work, and I now question the identity of these weeds. I can see them as unseemly, making a mess of the carefully cultivated, or as powerful in their ability to be just as they are. “Unruly” reflects on the power that lies in the collective will of the marginal, the ordinary and the accidental.