PAPER WORK: Signs and Signals

the works of Artist Joan Grubin

April 05, 2014 - June 13, 2014


joan-033EHeroCropArtist Reception and Gallery Opening April 5, 3-5 pm at Commonweal Gallery.
Click here for directions to the gallery.

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I have been inspired by the work of Commonweal for many years. It is with great pleasure that I now have the opportunity to bring what I make into some kind of artistic conversation with the spirit of this extraordinary community.

My intention has been to “listen” to this space, and to enliven its entire volume of air, keeping in mind the physical location on the edge of the Pacific, and Commonweal’s humanistic vision. My recipe mixes a light-hearted spirit with ephemerality by calling upon both the substance of radiantly colored paper as well as the immaterial elements of reflected color, shadow, and negative space to animate the walls and floor. The minimal physical materiality of paper as well as the extreme economy of means support the notion that much can come from very little.

There is something about the way that paper navigates the bridge between the material and the immaterial world so gracefully that attracts me to it. It flaunts its mortality in a provocative way, yet has an unexpected ability to endure – it is this contradiction that makes paper feel so alive. I feel this intersection of vulnerability, beauty, and strength in some inexplicable way resonates with the spirit of Commonweal, which advocates and works so vigorously for the health of the planet, and for the spiritual and physical well-being of all of us creatures that inhabit it.

During the process of researching and reflecting on what I would make for this space, I was struck by the fact that that the imposing main building of Commonweal containing the gallery was originally designed as a Marconi transmission station. It was here that the historic first radio communication in Morse Code between the United States and Hawaii took place in 1914; in fact, the original radio equipment still exists and functions today, down in the inner recesses of the building where it is maintained by a dedicated core of radio volunteers.

­­­­­I became fascinated by the Morse code – its visual manifestation of dots and dashes. This aspect of Commonweal’s history, and the aesthetic and symbolic potential present in the phenomena of Morse Code were the inspiration for the largest piece in this exhibition – Can You Hear Me – mounted along the east-west axis of the far wall of the gallery. Informed by this history, the installation deploys a visual vocabulary and incorporates bits of existing infrastructure that suggest a system of technology, circuitry, and energy harnessed to fling signals out into the void, in hopes that someone somewhere will receive the messages. Such optimism seems a fitting parallel for art, an ever-evolving kind of connective code that taps into some reality not accessible by ordinary language, floated out into the gap between what we use to cope with our daily lives, and what we can access on a deeper level.

—Joan Grubin