When isolated, Trisha Donnelly’s economical gestures seem veiled in code like the spare lines of a poem. However, considered together in this, the artist’s first solo institutional show, past and present works from the last several years build a layered argument for the importance of sound and time. The projects urge the viewer to surrender to the ephemeral’s role in how we pass through life.
The notion of journey is introduced by Passenger, which spells out “tH PSNGR” in graphite on paper nine feet tall. Insistent, the piece’s graceful monumentality does not ask us to come along but describes circumstances as they are. We are always on the move and constantly in the path of new discoveries.
Untitled* (*title is audio) hints at what might be found along the way. Pinned to the wall are twelve slightly different thirty-inch drawings of a hollow cylinder. This flipbook strategy infuses a banal object with the real-time phenomenon of perception and conjures the multi-faceted process of seeing. Increasing the sense of potential in the everyday, viewers who ask for the drawing’s title are played a CD. The thump thump of a drumbeat not only focuses attention on the frequency of life’s encounters but also ceremonializes the act of looking.
The physicality of sound is further explored in The Shield, a one hour audio loop emitted by speakers on either side of the gallery that create a boundary. The threshold made by the synthetic noise panning from floor to ceiling is unquestioned; choosing to cross is ignoring the breadth of what is there.
Untitled, an eight-foot tall E written in blood-red enamel, invokes the immaterial through ancient Egypt, a culture wherein earthly elements supported a dynamism dismissed today. This piece abstractly conjures this now-mystical way of understanding, while other works in the exhibition do so with the snapshot. Hand that holds the desert down is a five-inch silver gelatin print of the eroding sphinx built to protect pharaohs entombed nearby in the desert outside of Cairo. The slight image functions as a portal from the rationality of the 21st century to the otherworldly notions of Mesopotamia.
A commitment to re-awakening such energy is articulated in the two-part Untitled. On one side of a wall is a pencil drawing of a tightly knit mass of space resembling a dark, body-less cloak. Available upon request is a view around the corner. There hangs a complimentary image—the same shape made convex, lighter, and cast in a kinetic blue. This is what a drawing looks like after it passes through the barrier that seems to stop it.
Trisha Donnelly’s works poetically collapse the mundane and the complex. If one succumbs to seeing the world as her pieces suggest, surroundings expand into a wondrous mix of images, sound, and time that yield infinitely new sensations. As revealed by Volume, a three-foot tall sheet of white paper punctuated by a simple pencil drawing of a knob, choosing to perceive (not believe) is liberating. With this handle we can each adjust the vigor of the show and temper our understanding of life.