February 27 - April 9
It is a rare occurrence to find yourself looking at something, not knowing what it is you are looking at. That disarming feeling of not knowing what to do, how to engage. A moment of true discovery, at a loss for any means of articulation. Such occurrences are made all the more rare by our continuously accelerating habits of consumption. Haven’t we already seen every body, every thing, every place? A slow approach can help with this. We simply miss less stuff that way. Our attention is regained, focussed. The sculptures that comprise Noelle Allen’s Low Fire manage this slowing for us. Encountering these works of resin and ceramic is not a time for quick assessments, identifying equivalences, or calculating meaning. These sculptures are working, slowly working. Shapes and colors seem to be pulsating into configurations, or are they melting away? Something once in motion is now held in stillness. How was it before, and what will it be just after? Obsessively repeated loops open and close — form working toward form. Frozen in an unsettled state. No, paused. The fleeting, or invisible, captured. Labor is invisible when all we have are the results, and, to be sure, the labor behind this work was slow. It had to be. A low fire is a slow processor. Finding its way. Settling on an ending, however temporary. Endings are stops. Stops become starts. Starts progress. Progression is not speed. Speed is not fast. Allen initiates processes and lets them happen at slow speeds, she takes her time, and when the materials take control, they take their time. Slowness in the act of creation becomes slowness in the act of viewership. Linger, study, meander. Consider the formless beginnings of these works: wet clay, wet resin. Consider Allen’s playfully untethered approach to these traditional craft materials as she seeks to understand their potential to do something else, to communicate something beyond their history and utility, employing experimental techniques in mold-making, firing, glazing, and pigmenting. Ceramic work is an extension of the body, its labor, its abilities. The resin works operate as reflections of the body. Think ghost, not mirror. Figure-like, not figurative. Their surfaces remain fluid, indiscernible, casting their stability in doubt. Like seeing a ghost, they appear elusive in their form. We mistrust our perception, and so all of this work helps us modify it. Rainbow colors and strange textures shift to present themselves. The unreal, the invisible, the distant, and the microscopic are suspended in space. And we are there to navigate them. Slowly.
Noelle Allen (b. 1979) is an artist living in Oak Park, IL. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and across the United States. Past solo exhibitions include Furman University, Greenville, SC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Marquette Cultural Center, Marquette, MI; Riverside Art Center, Riverside, IL; Comfort Station, Chicago; and Terrain, Oak Park, IL. Group exhibitions include Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL; The Franklin, Chicago; Chicago Artists Coalition; Koffer Kunst, Hamburg, Germany; and University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Allen holds a BA from Smith College and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.