Concrete Stitches: Sinéad Cahill and Sarah Thompson Moores’ “By the By”
(IMAGE: Detail of Cahill’s Memory Collection)
It starts off with a dare. At the threshold of the gallery lay Moore’s To The Ends, a concrete pathway leading the viewer through a collection of images and experiences. The exhibition is immediately met with hesitance as viewers stand at the doorway, trying to decide whether or not to step on the artwork beneath them. A braver guest breaks the ice by gently testing his foot on the course gray walkway; the rest eventually follow suit. Behold, an exceptional device for submerging the viewers into the mindset of participation.
This kind of playful vigor that Cahill and Moore introduce themselves with is repeated throughout the exhibition. All corners of the gallery are considered, and the viewer finds themself bobbing and weaving around various artworks that are organized with an peculiarattentiveness. A similar kind of internal logic is found in the arrangement of Cahill’s piece, Memory Collection. The viewer tries to unearth the story within the litho-hieroglyphics on cotton, arranged with cryptic significance. Cahill gives us just enough information to build our own story to support the printed images. The real drama doesn’t just rest in our personal memory bank, and the suggested story in ink, but it finds its way into the bent knees and crouching haunches of the individuals rooting around in their playful exploration. Lifting, hanging, suspending, and sprawled out across the floor, the pieces are distributed around the gallery like jungle gyms and swing sets on a playground, inviting the viewer to partake in their curious design. In this way the viewer becomes part of the exhibition, animating the space, and the structures that occupy it.
The most notable pieces displaying this collaborative relationship between viewer and artwork are the works, Will, You? and Backyard Boys. The sculptures are raised high enough to be viewed at eye level, but they implore you to inspect underneath and overtop of them. Visitors continue their hunching and looming. Cast concrete, wool felt, sand, and cotton are fashioned into simultaneously jagged and cushioned islands. The confluence of contrasting materials aren’t as awkward as one would initially expect, rather, a convincing harmony is created between the soft tree-like beings, and their severe landscape. Much like the two artists, whose work may seem too distant at first, an extremely satisfying surprise occurs when such dissimilar characters coordinate so well with one another. This collaborative spirit perseveres from the studio into the gallery where the viewer activates each creation by engaging with it, thus joining Cahill and Moore in the art making process.
July 10 – August 8, 2015
319 N. 11 St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122