Matthew Day Jackson, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Jay Heikes, Karthik Pandian, Erin Shirreff | Trieste


Federica Schiavo Gallery is thrilled to present TRIESTE with new works exclusively created for the show by Matthew Day Jackson, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Jay Heikes, Karthik Pandian and Erin Shirreff.

is the name of the Italian-built deep-diving bathyscaphe with a crew of two people, which, in 1960, reached a record maximum depth in the deepest known part of the Earth’s oceans in the Mariana Trench. The dive has never been repeated, and presently no manned or unmanned craft exists capable of reaching such depth. Trieste is also the small port city on the Adriatic in the north of Italy that borders Slovenia, known for its moodiness and changeability.
The group exhibition metaphorically takes inspiration by these two ‘borderline’ realities and draws to the idea of the unknown and the impossible. Each artist, in his or her own right, is attracted to these aspects. The five American-based artists share a very close friendship and had extensive conversations around these themes in the years.

Jay Heikes, who had a leading role in processing the show, says: “I can see in all of us a desire to harness the power of everything that has moved through our minds into our works. Through them I can see a grappling with history and culture, a nod or something like an elaboration of the less traveled dead ends that have been lost. I think ‘explorers’ is a goofy word but perfect for all of us who leave ourselves open to explore those spaces as the only places where the possibilities lie. In Matthew’s work I have always found the condensation of historical objects to be both severe and disorienting. As if history was visible like a mountain range, only to realize our eyes are not strong enough to see more than an hour away. In Erin’s work the severity is taken to another level where the formal gaps are not time machines but parameters of claim. Spaces where language appears obsolete but is constant and constantly mutating in order to describe itself. The tools and ‘relics’ of a culture may be as malleable as the materials that made them and Jessica is always aware of the objects that are not only framing us as figures in a space but as messy minds trying to categorize ‘things’. I think that is why her work appears to be a collision of domesticity and surrealism. Like daydreaming the wildest daydream while waiting for your toast to pop up. Then there’s Karthik and I who are both dedicated to forms of research trying to connect the links that history has naturally worked to splinter.
This is why this interest in the double, maybe triple meaning of Trieste is so great, because really it becomes an idea of a place or a space. So with any group show it is impossible to declare what the show will be doing but more about setting up an environment for something special to happen. This is Trieste.”

Matthew Day Jackson’s art grapples with big ideas such as the evolution of human thought, the fatal attraction of the frontier and the faith man places in technological advancement. His work particularly addresses the myth of the American Dream, exploring the forces of creation, growth, transcendence and death through visions of its failed utopia. Recent work expands on these underlying ideas inherent in the American mythology and focuses on the plurality of this mythology pointing to its existence outside American Culture. Jackson depicts these using the world around him.The diverse materials resonate with symbolism, combining apocalyptic elements with the fruits of new technologies, historical imagery with contemporary ingredients. In his art ideas are granted physical form, and it is in the clash between the two, in the material impact of idealist thought, that it derives its force. His work explores a concept that he terms ‘the Horriful’, the belief that everything one does has the potential to bring both beauty and horror.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins’ mixed media sculptures, ceramics, prints and works on paper are a curious combination of physical gusto tempered by great fragility. Her works act as containers for a wide range of themes – popular and personal, sad and humorous, but always grounded in the messy business of human relationships. Her understanding of collage aesthetics infuses her abstract objects in varying scales, as when she nestles awkward glazed vessels on worn readymade armchairs, couches, and tables, or props them up on lumpen or lean plinths of her own devising. The human body is referenced repeatedly, in all of its dumb charm and joyful habits. Hutchins is consistently able to transform data from daily life into shapes and images that can yield an intimate urgency.
Jay Heikes is known for his heterogeneous practice. He is capable of merging abstract painting, video, installation, performance and sculpture with a common romantic approach, and a grotesque, amused mood that characterizes his approach. His work shows the precarious nature of all allusions to the real, particularly the continuous changes and shifts of all cultural, visual, and experiential references. It captures how different materials engage with each other, especially after a chemical change. The sheer materiality of Heikes’ recent work reflects his dissatisfaction with contemporary art in the participatory, performative tradition, and a desire to return attention to painting, sculpture and installation.
Karthik Pandian’s practice seeks to unsettle the contradictions at the heart of the monument. The universal and contingent, sacred and profane, proximate and distant confront one another in his work. Concerned in particular with the way in which history lurks in matter, Pandian often uses 16mm film to excavate sites for fragments of political intensity. The sculptural works that support, enshroud and sometimes obscure his film projections are produced from materials drawn from his research and often assume the form of architectural constructions. Through moving image, sculpture and syntheses of the two, his work imagines freedom in relation to the impositions of architecture.
Trained as a sculptor, Erin Shirreff works in multiple media, including photography and video, and her work suggests evocations as diverse as the archeological cataloging of ancient tools, the observation of planets through telescopic devices, and the hulking presence of minimalist sculpture in the landscape. Her sculptures trade on what is absent. Silhouettes of abstract, geometric forms and two-dimensional shapes hover in a temporally ambiguous zone, appearing both made and found. The effectiveness of Shirreff’s conceptual concerns hinges on her selection of subjects that are familiar to the point of becoming enigmatic, leaving us to grapple with how meaning is created in an anonymous visual landscape.