press release

Trannie: Rhetorics of Identity in Transition explores identity dissolution and reconstruction. Operating within the parameters of "learning to struggle better," Trannie responds to issues of displacement and dislocation. The often-conceptual nature of these artworks address identity politics, constructed and mediated realities and alienation. The artists employ diverse media ranging from 16-mm film and single channel DVD to painting, sculpture, and mixed media wall installations. Artists include Laura Carton, MK Guth, Patrick Meagher, Libby McInnis, Jenny Perlin, Karlis Rekevics, Elizabeth Russell, Steven Starfas, Greg Venuto, Fritz Welch, Michael Young, and Robert Zungu.

THE ARTISTS Laura Carton downloads pornographic stills from the Internet, digitally removes its participants, and then reconstructs the mise en scene based on evidence from the original image. These anti-portraits bring the transitory nature of sexuality to the forefront and produce haunting compositions where once present participants become ghosts. Carton’s digital erasures address sexuality, essentialism, ethnicity, class, gender, and race.

MK Guth’s life-size translucent fiberglass and resin sculpture, Kissing Capes (2001) depicts two super hero capes in flight. The translucent aerial sculpture addresses isolation and alienation. Guth’s ghostly sculptures illustrate two "outsiders" who have renounced the socially accepted domain to exist in their own extraordinary relationship.

Libby McInnis presents My New Dress, (2002), a series of five vignettes that illustrate a couple trapped in a dysfunctional and abusive heterosexual marriage. Using the vernacular of pop-up theater and children’s books, the omniscient viewer is invited to manipulate the couple’s actions as they struggle with their own sexual and gender identities. The sculpture’s mechanics empower the viewer to activate each stage of the story by pulling and pushing on its tabs and joints, thereby becoming part of the domestic struggle. For McInnis, her storyboards are "not about answers, but rather sitting in the saddle."

Patrick Meagher and Dave Shim’s Autobahn 3 (2002) is a digital montage of night footage of the Autobahn recorded and overlaid at three different speeds. Meagher & Shim explore theories of shifting space by collapsing, stretching, and compressing the landscapes’ foreground, middleground, and background on a proportionate "metric per layer" composition. Autobahn 3 negotiates and redefines photographic strategies to capture the highways’ disorientating and chaotic movements. The work functions as "digital sculpture," which deconstructs and flattens the highway, acts as a metaphor for the displacement and dislocation caused by mass infrastructure and urbanism.

Jenny Perlin’s 16-mm film Perseverance (2002), a thirty-minute stop motion animated triptych, investigates self-exploration through an obsessive process in which she catalogues, copies, and animates receipts that were purchased in a given interval of time. She then transcribes a quote from a self-help book one word at a time, and finally sketches a detail of a 19-century machine. Through this obsessive process she objectively analyzes her psychological and personal motivations. Endlessly looping, Perseverance manifests the infinite process of self-assessment and personal growth.

Karlis Rekevics’ sculptures explore the psychological and sociological impact urban constructions, such as construction barricades, highway signage, billboards, lampposts, and traffic lights, have on the individual. Rekevics’ raw and unfinished plaster sculptures, like props ripped from the urban landscape, facilitate direction, order, and safety. Using plaster as the primary building material, Rekevics reassigns strength and functionality to an otherwise ephemeral substance. In Untitled (2002) Rekevics appropriates an urban guardrail as a 13-foot long running fence that transverses the gallery. Untitled (2002) is a metaphor for the rules, roads, paths, journeys and choices we make.

Elizabeth Russell’s acrylic paintings, Sarracenia alata (2002) and Sarracenia ornata (2002) appropriate sexual aggression intrinsic in carnivorous plants to human sexuality. Exploring the cyclical nature of destruction and recreation, Russell’s’ compositions indicate a multi-layered and multifaceted identity and examine issues of reconciliation, revision and transformation. Sarracenia alata (2002) and Sarracenia ornata (2002), botanical refuges formed by layering and then removing paint from canvas, subverts the natural direction of the pitcher plant’s growth, rendering vertical plants horizontally.

Steven Starfas combines traditional photographic printing techniques with oil paint and varnish. Using images appropriated from vintage Eastern European history textbooks, Starfas focuses on lost or hidden subjects to explore dangers inherit to living in the periphery. Once photographed, the digital image is input into a television and photographed for a second time. The resulting pixilated haze over these black and white paintings blurs the interpretation of history and addresses notions of exile, migration, and the threat of institutional oppression. Untitled (Turbid #1 - #4) (August 2002) is a polytych of four black and white paintings that evoke tension from an impending exodus.

Greg Venuto’s black and white photographs Stain (1994) and Victory (1994) depict an empty movie theater and an abandoned bookshelf. Venuto’s compositions illustrate loss, abuse, inner pain and abandonment by documenting the bruises and stains left behind. Venuto’s images serve as a memorial to the transitory states of success and failure.

Brooklyn based artist Fritz Welch’s mixed media wall sculptures redefine the boundaries of drawings and site-specific installations. Applying graphite and ink directly to the wall, Welch layers vinyl images with defunct musical instruments. In works based on disassembly and the construction of anarchist architecture, Welch finds inspiration in agit-prop graffiti, advertising flyers, ambient conversations, and other cultural debris. For Trannie, Welch constructs silent dusk (2002), a site specific wall installation consisting of a monumental screenprint titled The Collapsing Studio, a graphite and vinyl drawing, a mixed media sculpture, a broken bathroom mirror, wood objects, a photograph of an oil rig, and a snare drum.

Michael Young photographs trucks and urinals from public highway rest stops. 500 College Street, New Haven, CT (Urinals) and I-95 South, Exit 44 (Red and Purple Truck) depict iconography associated with homosexuality. These sites of deviant encounters replace intimate relationships. Young photographs trucks frontally, illuminating their inherit anthropomorphic qualities. While the trucks’ fuchsia and purple façades are associated with femininity and homosexuality, their scale and functionality symbolize embody masculinity. Young’s photographs juxtapose traditional heterosexual machinery with homosexual connotations, illuminating the complex nature of gay identity.

Robert Zungu’s mixed media installation With Downcast Eyes (2002) examines the authenticity of perception and self-awareness. With Downcast Eyes (2002) is comprised of three elements: a "true mirror," fabricated steel stands, and vinyl wall text. Zungu constructs a "true mirror" made by aligning two mirrors at perpendicular right angles. This mirror format forces the viewer to confront their own reflections as they exist, rather than in the customary reverse image they have grown accustomed to; the face is seen in an opposite direction illuminating facial tilts that appear exaggerated and asymmetrical. This new perception often causes feelings of displacement and dislocation. A vinyl wall text of an excerpt from the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of Self-analysis is situated behind the viewer. The text reads: "I see only from one point, but in my existence I am looked at from all sides." It is when the viewer recognizes that s/he can read the text through the mirror that they realize they are viewing their own image in its true form. With Downcast Eyes (2002) forces the viewer into a state of immediate transition and generates new personal awareness by authenticating the subject.


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Trannie: Rhetorics of Identity in Transition
Kurator: Jeffrey Uslip
White Box / THE ANNEX

mit Laura Carton, MK Guth, Patrick Meagher, Libby McInnis, Jenny Perlin, Karlis Rekevics, Elizabeth Russell, Steven Starfas, Greg Venuto, Fritz Welch, Michael Young, Robert Zungu