Social Studies #14 (detail)
This month at Nine Gallery, Emily Ginsburg exhibits work from Social Studies, a series of stark black and white silkscreens that continues her ongoing interest in human behavior and psychology. Each panel holds an interconnected tangle of silhouetted signs and symbols rooted in a graphic vocabulary that Ginsburg has culled from modern and vintage electronics, industrial forms and comics. Ginsburg's previous installations and video work make use of the body directly, and in works like Blotto, she employs imagery of body parts and gestures. Within this new series of work, she instead references human behavior in a very cool, distanced, academic way, using a set of abstracted symbols to infer such social forces as communication, networks and human conflict.
Works in the show fall into three levels of complexity and the installation emphasizes these differences, resulting in an unfortunate unevenness. One wall contains a set of simplified images, many paring down a simple representation of conflict and tension between abstracted forces. The facing wall contains a series of imagery with more complexity, but the similarity of scale between elements falls flat at times. Ginsburg's large silkscreens are by far the most successful pieces in the show, and the expanded palate of symbols and formal variation give the pieces a visual complexity that the smaller prints lack.
Ginsburg's large prints employ fluid composition and have a diffuse energy that recalls work by contemporary painters such as Paul Henry Ramirez, but Ginsburg downplays explicit figurative references, relying on the cerebral and visual rather than the visceral impulse. All of Ginsburg's canvases stay within the edges of their borders and act as self-contained compositions that are the visual equivalent of sampling, albeit in a strictly formalized manner.
Social Studies #15
Ginsburg is unafraid to use purely decorative and visual elements, taking a cue from contemporary graphic design in creating her compositions. Her use of silhouette brings to mind work by Ryan McGinness, the skater and graphic designer now on the Deitch roster. McGinness shares with Ginsburg a tendency to layer imagery in order to open up a realm of ambiguity and non-absolute interpretation, but his installations move beyond the edges of the page or canvas, spilling out onto the gallery walls. Ginsburg's Blotto, a digitally printed wall paper piece, began to explore the combination of graphic design oriented work with the surrounding space and it would be interesting to see how the visual conceits of Social Studies would work in tandem with the gallery.
More work from the Social Studies series is forthcoming, as Ginsburg will be continuing the series during a residency and exhibition in Brazil in 2006 that she was recently awarded. She will be working and showing alongside five other Portland-based artists, Bruce Conkle, David Eckard, MK Guth, Don Olsen and Tamsie Ringler, in conjunction with the Brazil Exchange program organized by PNCA's Feldman Gallery.
Social Studies #14