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This World is Flat

Palden Weinreb This World is Flat

Preface

This World is Flat, Palden Weinreb’s first solo show, inaugurates what promises to be another year of exciting exhibitions for the gallery, one that will take us from New York, where Palden was born, to Cambodia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Iran and further, continuing a journey into the world of contemporary Asian art which is full of surprises.

I would like to think that Palden somehow personifies what this gallery is about:

he is a quiet, thoughtful, dedicated artist, totally committed to ‘walking the line’ regardless of what might be considered fashionable. His delicate, contemplative works speak with a clear and considered voice; they do not shout, but demand from the viewer the same patient and meditative outlook that are essential to his creative process, revealing themselves over time.

The first time I met Palden was in Tibet during a journey that he had taken to re-connect with his maternal roots, though he had already contributed a work to Lhasa Express, a gallery group show staged in 2006. Since then, I have witnessed a remarkable development in his practice, displaying a greater mastery of his technique and a wider and more ambitious vision evident in the work produced for this show. He has been pushing the boundaries, challenging himself, exploring alternative ways of looking at this world.

Fabio Rossi London, February 2010

Palden Weinreb: Expanding the Process

On the eve of 2010, professional prognosticators imagining the year and decade ahead heralded the expansion of digital media and locally produced goods, while warning against “constant partial attention” as electronic devices are increasingly incorporated into daily life. Pundits forecasted the extinction of paper-printed materials (from bank statements to books), and bemoaned the declining availability of time and space for concentration and privacy.Concurrently, in a quiet, modest-sized studio in Long Island City, Queens, 27-year-old Palden Weinreb was finishing a new body of drawings and mixed-media works that evince these cultural shifts while remaining rooted in the artist’s practice of finely executed, handmade line-drawings.

Trend predictors such as the British futurist Richard Watson and the American corporate-consultant Faith Popcorn aspire to be a step ahead of mass culture, cutting-edge science and new technology,feeding the mainstream and commercial enterprises that need innovation in order to compete and survive. This approach contrasts with young artists like Weinreb, who, as a small-scale, individual producer creates objects that are primarily reflective rather than instrumental. Though Weinreb employs computer software to plan his drawings, the urgency to be groundbreaking or a leader in visual innovation—James Cameron’s $230 million 3-D film Avatar was released in mid-December in the US—is not a visual artist’s sole prerogative.

Instead, Weinreb locates his art-making practice in specific reaction to the sophisticated advertising and media that saturate public life. He recounts how during his studies at Skidmore College, he found drawing to be an activity that could drown out the world and the bombardment of commercial imagery, as well as a way to focus his own attention. His student works were comprised of repetitive forms created as he recited a mantra. These drawings, rooted in a meditative process, led to more refined, post-university series, many of which were done in graphite on white and off-white paper and featured dense patterns

of lines that described larger geometric shapes. Passing Rise (2008), for example, which was shown at New York’s Dinter Fine Art in March 2008, consists of three parallelograms made up of thin slanted lines drawn with graphite. Emerging from the left-hand corner of each shape is a blank rectangular area (successively larger in each of the three from left to right) capped by a rounded edge, from which the angled, descending lines are diverted to the lower right corner, as if they were refracted rays of light. As is characteristic of Weinreb’s works, Passing Rise is an object to be looked at patiently and repeatedly, as it is primarily concerned with the subtle construction of optical space by the gradation or absence of lines and the formal play of repeating shapes. Just as Weinreb’s mantra drawings were the work of deep concentration for the artist, his abstractions require, and reward, viewers’ attentive absorption.

In works completed over the past two years, Weinreb has developed an increasingly complex language of abstraction, one that reflects a conception of visual space that is found in digital or virtual media. His large graphite- on-paper Cast Diffusion (2008, page 37) reprises several of the visual motifs from Passing Rise. A central column of vertical lines spaced at subtly varying intervals resembles a tubular form. About halfway down this tube are blank rectangular shapes ascending from the bottom of the drawing and capped by rounded tops like those in Passing Rise. As the descending vertical lines of the trunk intersect with these rounded edges, they are refracted at an oblique angle, creating cylindrical-looking offshoots from the central column that evoke roots or supporting struts. The drawing has a distinctive three-dimensional space, created by the decreasing density of vertical lines toward the center of the main column and the supporting struts, giving the illusion of a rounded form. With its elemental but succinct conception of form that activates our instinctual understanding of how to read perspectival space, Cast Diffusion brings to mind the 3-D graphics found in the CAD software used by architects and designers, or the 3-D modeling program Maya favoured by computer and video-game creators.

This evocation of virtual reality in Weinreb’s drawings sets his graphic works apart from the abstractionists of the 1970s such as Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt and Nasreen Mohamedi—all of whose works retained a sense of the human hand rather than a reliance on the industrial production methods advocated by Donald Judd, Tony Smith and other arch-Minimalists. The conception of space in Martin, LeWitt and Mohamedi’s work is strictly two- or three-dimensional, as these artists explored the dynamics of the picture plane, illustrating how shapes, colours and textures illustrate the dual material and optical properties of the image surface. In Weinreb’s drawings there is evidence of an expanded consciousness of space, one that is neither purely illusory nor materialist, but which encompasses a virtual or simulated reality.

As Weinreb creates increasingly complex depictions of space in his recent pieces, he has also moved away from working simply with graphite on paper. In the four- and-a-half-foot-high triptych Oblivion (#,1 #,2 #3) (2009, page 31), the three vertical panels are each made up of non-concentric rings of increasingly large circles. Each circle is described by radiating bands of graphite lines of varying densities—the result of drawing by hand—and separated by thin unmarked areas. Covered in layers of encaustic wax, the panels are surprisingly tactile, adding a physical dimension to the complex spatial play in the trio. An even more complex graphite and encaustic work is Planar (2009, page 17), a three-dimensional- looking form consisting of three rings of vertically descending lines that appears to hover in the middle of the paper like a chandelier. The inner ring has the longest lines and the outer ring has the shortest marks; together, the three rings’ overlapping textures collapse a coherent sense of space.

“It’s about walking the line” between the digitally designed and the artist- executed elements, Weinreb explained as he demonstrated the elaborate process of transferring his designs from laptop screen to studio wall, observing that that the hand-drawn lines and thickly applied encaustic provide an element

of spontaneity in what are otherwise precisely prepared works. His move beyond paper and graphite are further evidenced in Astral Redux (2009, page 43), in which lines radiating from a central circle, broken by thin, non-concentric bands, are laser-cut slits in a thin sheet of wood through which LED light brightly shines. At the time of my visit to Weinreb’s studio, he was also working on configuring the mechanics for an even more complex multimedia lightbox involving a backlit scrim covered with a line-pattern that moves up and down behind a drawing laser-cut into wood.

Even as Weinreb enlarges his practice to include new materials, it remains grounded in the potential of drawing. Curator Laura Hoptman, writing in the introduction to the catalogue of Drawing Now: Eight Propositions held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2002, observes that for much of the 1960s and 1970s, drawing was revered as an activity that could be practiced in performance or installation works, as land art, or captured on video—an attitude encapsulated by Richard Serra’s 1977 comment that “drawing is a verb.” Hoptman, who entitled her essay Drawing as a Noun contrasts process-based drawings with those featured in her exhibition that were finished, autonomous artworks. Existing somewhere between these two poles, Weinreb’s works are perhaps more like gerunds—verbs concretized into nouns—in which the action of their making is coextensive with their pre-conceived design.

For Weinreb, digital technology, whether it is Adobe Illustrator or a laser-cutter, offers new potential materials and forms. “Artists shouldn’t be afraid of it,” he remarked as he mulled over possible future ideas, including making drawings

on standing sheets of bent Plexiglas, while acknowledging that his ambitions may exceed his current studio capabilities and budget. This open attitude to technology allows Weinreb to augment and elaborate an artistic practice that at its core is concerned with expanding upon classical and modern ideas about the representation of space, both physical and cognitive, in the artwork.

HG Masters Berlin, January 2010

HG Masters is an artist and writer based in Berlin and an editor-at-large for ArtAsiaPacific Magazine

Plates

previous page:

Genesis

2008

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board

61 x 45 cm (24 x 18 in)

this page:

Planar Decay

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board

78 x 106 cm (31 x 42 in)

Planar Decay (detail)

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board 78 x 106 cm (31 x 42 in)

Bow

2008

graphite and silverpoint on paper

65 x 47 cm (22.5 x 18.5 in)

Voided Tinder

2008

graphite on paper 61 x 45 cm (24 x 18 in)

previous page:

Emanations

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper

86 x 122 cm (34 x 48 in)

this page:

Untitled (Cross)

2008

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board

34 x 45 cm (13.5 x 18 in)

Untitled (Slit)

2008

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board

45 x 34 cm (18 x 13.5 in)

Oblivion (#1)

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper each panel 140 x 81 cm (55 x 32 in)

Oblivion (#1, #2, #3)

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper each panel 140 x 81 cm (55 x 32 in)

Cast Diffusion

2008

graphite on paper 104 x 140 cm (41 x 55 in)

Untitled (Hull series 1 of 6)

2010

lithograph with encaustic on paper and panel board

40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in)

this page:

Untitled (Hull series 2 of 6)

2010

lithograph with encaustic on paper and panel board

40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in)

following pages:

Untitled (Hull series 4, 5, 6 of 6)

2010

lithographs with encaustic on paper and panel board each panel 40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in)

Astral Redux

2009

graphite on wood, LEDs 56 x 43 cm (22 x 17 in)

Astral Redux (detail)

2009

graphite on wood, LEDs 56 x 43 cm (22 x 17 in)

Palden Weinreb

lives and works in New York City

Education 2000 - 2004 Skidmore College

Selected Exhibitions

2010

This World is Flat, Rossi & Rossi, London

2008

New Works by Palden Weinreb and Tenzing Rigdol, Dinter Fine Art, New York SH Contemporary 08, Rossi & Rossi, Shanghai

2007

Past and Present, Rossi & Rossi at Christopher Farr, Los Angeles Consciousness and Form, Rossi & Rossi, London Written on the Wind: the Flag Project, Rubin Museum of Art, New York Tibetan Encounters, Rossi & Rossi at Heidi Neuhoff gallery, New York

2006

Lhasa Express, Rossi & Rossi, London

2005

The Print Show, Gallery 402, New York

2004

Thesis Exhibition, Francis Young Tang Museum, New York

Publications Tibetan Contemporary Art: Beyond the Cultural Mask, ArtAsiaPacific, No. 57, 2008 The Flag Project: Contemporary Artists Celebrate the Opening of a New Museum, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2007 Palden Weinreb: Abstract Sacred Space, Catamaran No. 7, Fall 2007

first published as part of the exhibition:

Palden Weinreb This World is Flat

12 February - 18 March 2010

My thanks go to H.G. Masters who has contributed a most eloquent essay which captures the spirit of Palden’s work, and also to my mother and my wife who have guided me as they always do.

Fabio Rossi

Coordination: Martin Clist Design: Ruth Höflich Photography: Simon Chantasirivisal (New York), Matt Pia (London) Assistance: Mauro Ribero and Arianna Bongioanni

Rossi

Rossi

16 Clifford street London W1s 3RG t +44 20 7734 6487 f +44 20 7734 8051 info@rossirossi.com

www.rossirossi.com

© Rossi & Rossi Ltd. 2010 Text copyright © the authors, Images courtesy of the artist

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any storage or retrieval system, without prior permission from the copyright holders and publishers.

ISBN 978 1 906576 14 1

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Cover Image:

Oblivion (#3)

2009

graphite and encaustic on paper and panel board

140 x 81 cm (55 x 32 in)