Art at 575 Madison
September 7, 2022 - March 6, 2023
Work by Shanti Grumbine
A story in the newspaper is as much a weaving as any piece of fabric; histories, quotes, perspectives, backgrounds, observations, and predictions are set together in such a way that reality becomes suspended in its form. Every published article is then a window into another world made conveniently viewable from a distance.
The works of Shanti Grumbine are as captivating as they are critical of the material from which they are constructed. Newspaper pages, particularly those of The New York Times, offer a familiar, if not iconic, form for the viewer to enter the work. However, upon close inspection, we realize how little information remains from the original artifact. Grumbine spends hundreds of painstaking hours meticulously extracting words and shapes to expose the underlying structure of the medium. The newspaper has, in the most literal sense, become a window.
The ghostly images of high-end products appearing in many pieces on exhibit have an added resonance on Madison Avenue, as they can be found for sale only blocks away. Works like Melt, Reach, and the nine-paneled Tiffany and The Shower of Gold (After the Myth of Danae), all illustrate the tension caused by using the tragedies of climate change and war as a delivery system for marketing luxury goods.
There is a physicality to these intricate works that is hard to miss. Grumbine has created something structural out of material designed to be ephemeral. So it makes sense to learn that Grumbine has extensive experience as a performance artist, dancer, sculptor, and rock climber, all very physical pursuits. Yet it remains hard to imagine why an artist would design such a painstaking process to create work. Surprisingly, the works were a form of art therapy, devised to help the artist’s mind and body recover from a severe case of untreated Lyme disease. Grumbine went from dangling off rocky outcroppings by her fingertips to hardly being able to hold a pencil in a matter of months. “Even reading was hard because of the cognitive effects of the Lyme. So, the newspapers became both freedom and instigation. I became hyperaware of the paper as a marketable mechanism and object, whose structure perpetuates contradictory value systems.”
Perhaps the most intimate works in the show are the small-scale depictions of windows, gates, and breezeblocks. The beautifully layered works of gel pen and ink wash, highlight overlooked architectural elements that serve as both protection from and access to the outside world. When viewed in the same context as Grumbine’s works with newspapers, the connections become obvious. Once again we are on the outside of something ornate and strong, gazing inwards and contemplating the lives of those on the other side.
Text by Matthew Lopez Jensen