THE PROSCENIUM:                                                             




FEBRUARY 9 - MARCH 18, 2018

GEORGE GALLERY is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by ANGELA HEISCH, JOHN L. MOORE, and KAREN SCHIFANO. 


The exhibition threads an interpretation of the artists’ work as it relates to theater, and to the proscenium as something both physical and imaginative. The proscenium refers to a convention in theater design. It is the implied boundary between stage and audience — not an architectural form in its own right, but one determined by the architectural forms that surround it. The proscenium begins where the curtain falls, and is often surmounted by an arch that spans and extends beyond the stage. This sets the stage back from the audience, creating a recessed aperture into a fictive world that inhabits a particular space and time. The proscenium, then, ascribes meaning to this aperture — setting the world of the audience apart from the world onstage.


This exhibition contends that painting may be described in analogous terms. In designating their work a painting, an artist creates a pact for a viewer to take an object as something apart from the wall on which it hangs — again, as a meaningful aperture into a fictional world. Heisch, Moore, and Schifano demonstrate the uneasy ways by which viewers accept that pact — or take it for granted — and go further to explore the possibilities afforded when an artist paints the proscenium, giving it a physical form. Gathering their work, we begin to apprehend a shared interest of these artists, and the way each incorporates the curtain, the stage, and the frame.


In square paintings on muslin and paper ANGELA HEISCH creates eerie, seemingly closed worlds through a mutable vocabulary of forms she arranges in imperfectly symmetrical compositions. The viewer’s attempt to render Heisch’s unrecognizable times, settings, and actions as familiar describe events in their own right. In Bridge Over Water (2017), a post and lintel arch forms a proscenium that stands in uncertain space. Its receding space opens onto a wall of gathered furry curtains. Nevertheless, those curtains complicate the space by extending beyond this depicted proscenium-stage: they cascade down into the arch from the black ground above, peek beyond its sides, and splay outwards, into another space that exists under and before the stage — rupturing the neat solipsism and self-containment her works, on first glance, deliver.


Narrative, experience, and passage inform the intimate but expansive paintings of JOHN L. MOORE. His paintings convey specific memories. In a large canvas, Jimmy (2012), Moore’s own experience of nighttime parachute exercises (pre-deployment training in the years preceding the Vietnam War) are rendered as a diaphanous, moving, blue-gray atmosphere. A burst of skyward smoke with a speckled trail of debris intersects falling forms. Unexpected elements intimate the atmosphere may in fact be contained — a ground-line across the bottom of the canvas evokes the back edge of a stage, while a bright blue curtain is cropped from view but for a sliver across the top-right corner of the canvas: a dress-rehearsal for war.


KAREN SCHIFANO uses the proscenium to imbue gracefully reductive paintings with meaning and narrative. Schifano has described shape and its capacity to “articulate meaning from a complex tangle of thought and feeling” as an important motivation for her work. To that end, she is interested in openings, frames, and stages. Schifano is interested in liminal spaces that outline, highlight, and conceal experience —for Schifano, shape brings an ambiguous potentiality: “something is about to happen in this space and we watch in anticipation.” What Comes Up (2017) and Slip of the Tongue (2017) illustrate these interests and motivations, but also the artist’s ability to arrange compositions of surprising, deceptive complexity. In both paintings, flat painted curtains are pulled open to reveal spaces and forms that are as bright and inviting as they are inscrutable and unyielding.


Heisch, Moore, and Schifano live and work in New York. Each has shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions. The show is accompanied by an essay written by Tyler Coulton.

For more information:

-Tyler Coulton