Art Review: Sophia Narrett at Freight + Volume

Art Review: Sophia Narrett, Early in the Game
by Kate Manire MFA 2017 

Some art demands to be observed closely--preferably no more than six inches away. I was thinking about this when I walked into Sophia Narrett’s solo show of wall embroideries at Freight + Volume because, frankly, I was trying to calm my anxiety over the fact that people were getting a little too close. But after seeing her show, titled Early in the Game, I absolutely understood why. There was quite a lot to take in, and although I spent a considerable amount of time there, probably a lot that I missed, too.

Early in the Game is a three-part installation, and each phase begins with a miniature, simplistic image that Narrett calls a “card.” Each card introduces a theme or emotion, which the artists builds on in the following larger, more organically shaped vignette-style compositions. In Card One: Cry, we see a woman at her doorstep, with her head slumped over and a slew of shopping bags. It’s a lonely image, and so are the larger formats that follow: a woman curled up in bed under a framed picture of Entourage’s Ari Gold and next to Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance; a box of tissues; a naked man with an erection looking in on a couple in a bank. Although varied and complex, the images in this chapter reflect themes of desolation, commercialism, and eroticism.

Card One: Cry, 2016, embroidery thread and fabric, 3.5 x 2.5 in

Card Two: Wander, sets the tone for the rest of the show which depicts an array of human interactions, often sexual or having to do with conventions of romance. The images are framed with organic branches, fruits and flowers from which hang woven bandages, IV needles and jewelry. Stuck, one of the largest pieces, is a modern Garden of Earthly Delights, although “delight” might be a strong word. In it, nude women, zombie-like and strapped to IVs, are seen entering and leaving a maze while an orgy occurs in what could either be a waterless swimming pool or an empty tomb. When viewed along with the rest of the motifs and scenes in the piece—the oranges, the suburban home with the young, wholesome couple outside— it’s very difficult to say whether Narrett wants us to project our own interpretations or to simply accept her narratives as autobiographical.

Stuck, 2016, embroidery thread and fabric, 62 x 38 in

Unfortunately for us, Card Three: Play and the final pieces of the show produce more questions than answers. In fact, each phase made me increasingly confused. Just as I began to think I was getting somewhere, the rug was pulled out from under me. There were parts that were safe for both relating to the artist and staying separate from her, but no real direction on which one to do and when. This made me especially thankful for the Cards, which allowed me to breathe and focus on a single emotion or experience before jumping back into the melee.

When Your Heart is Open, 2015, embroidery thread and fabric, 36 x 22 in

Narrative content aside, the embroideries are truly a joy to look at. She uses the medium of thread in ways that refer to painting as well as ways that escape the conventions that trap traditional paintings. Of course there is conceptual weight to using embroidery, historically relegated to a “womens’ craft,” and while the pieces certainly engage with notions of gender and domesticity, they also reveal a simple mastery and joy in the act of embroidering. Narrett’s optical color mixing alludes to impressionist paintings, and she embraces the hanging loose-ends of the thread and its potential for intricacy to shape her pieces.

Stuck (detail), 2016

It is always exciting and increasingly rare to find art in which you can clearly see the hand of the creator. It’s doubly so to be able to sense the creator’s tactile engagement in the piece just by looking at it. As artists, we are especially sensitive to this in everything we encounter, which perhaps is why I responded to Early in the Game so strongly. Narrett’s obvious care for and engagement with her chosen material is what will bring me back to her next show. 

No comments:

Post a Comment