Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, in collaboration with Modified Arts, presents two solo exhibitions of two Phoenix-based artists that run through June 13, 2015. “Fragile Life” by Denise Yaghmourian and “Krivanek” by Eddie Shea are both quite different from one another, but the tension between fragility and stability loosely tie the two exhibitions together. Shea’s paintings depict personal objects and images that may mean something to the artist, but in singling them out they become universal. The paintings have a dream-like blur, but the single thing emerges as something tangible. Yaghmourian’s installations and sculptures directly address the fragility of life. She takes the remnants of life -- skeleton, leaves, bones, feathers -- and reconfigures them into a new sense of living and being.
Skeleton Cubes, a sculptural installation by Yaghmourian is the first thing the viewer sees when entering the exhibition. The artist forms the bare bones of the leaves into delicate boxes that sway in the space. The skeleton leaves become something stable while still retaining a sense of fragility. The boxes are transparent and light forms that ethereally loom over the viewer within the installation. In the same room are a series of smaller works made with bone and thread. Yaghmourian builds off of the structure of the bones with thread, creating forms that utilize the bones as an armature for a new life. Again, the work operates in the space between fragile and stable. These small works, however, do not expand outside of the frames they are confined within. They could expand into multiple appendages, but instead they quietly lie there with untapped potential.
Yaghmourian’s sculptures in the next room, The Bird Becomes the Cage and Native Skin & Quill, address the notions of fragility and stability in a more direct way. The black and white forms are constructed with feathers and cable ties. Standing far away, the forms seem completely delicate. They float within the space as if they are ghosts. Upon viewing the details, it’s hard to discern between what is natural and industrial. The feathers and cable ties blend into each other, becoming something that’s simultaneously manufactured and natural. In contrast to Yaghmourian’s other work on display, this tension speaks to the fragility of life in a more profound way. With these works, we are not only talking about life in the natural world around us, but we are also talking about our lives as humans. The utilitarian is just as human at this point as anything else.
Eddie Shea’s paintings also speak to the fragility of life, but they are more connected to the everyday. In his paintings, quotidian objects such as a jacket, a solo cup, or a vase become the center of the world. The backgrounds of each of the paintings are scribbled circles that have a childlike or dreamy quality to them. Several of the paintings take up wall space from top to bottom, making them seem like they have a greater importance. Vase Tag and Bull Toy share a corner in the gallery. They are vignettes of everyday life. We do not know what importance these images yield to the artist, so we are left to draw our own associations. When thinking back on my own life, objects and images from my past come to mind and function as the objects that Shea depicts. These detailed relics become something more universal. I feel a strange connection to them -- I know these images but I just cannot place them.
The smallest paintings in the exhibition are arranged in a sequence that reads like a dream or a timeline of events: three women wearing extremely modest “swimsuits,” two toy trucks, a football player, a man wading in the water, a solo cup, and a baseball pitcher. The images seem to weave in and out of past and present or dream and reality. Shea is presenting a visual story that can only be read by projecting our own associations, or our own lives, onto the work. Just as Yaghmourian plays with the precarious nature of materials, Shea does so with images. The work is fragile not because of materiality, but because it is incomplete without the viewer drawing a connection to it.