Art World Review- Sara Garden Armstrong by Karen Chambers

Dieu Donne Papermill
433 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013-2622 US
through March 29, 1997
+ 1 212.226.0573 - voice + I 212.226.6088 - fax

The notion of duality is the first thing that strikes you with Sara Garden Armstrong's exhibition at Dieu Donne Papermill. It starts outside looking into the show. Apparently sucking onto the storefront window is a wide-mouthed form - an orifice, a funnel, a vessel, a gullet filled/choked with a pulsing/breathing iridescent double-lobed/heartlike form. What is seen outside draws you inside where you see it is connected to a succession of plastic tubes including a tangle of black coils covered with a cobweb pattern of white - spattered paint or remnants of paper pulp. It ends in an illuminated plastic bag. The clear plastic, which could be a painter's drop cloth, contains/protects a pouf of what appears to be rice paper. It is called Excavated Interior, but it might equally be seen as eviscerated interior.

Like the other sculptures in the gallery space in the front of the not-for-profit artists' space dedicated to the art and craft of papermaking, Excavated Interior is as much a temporal experience as a static visual one. There is the breathing/pulsing movement, the gradual brightening and dimming of its interior illumination, sound that is both mechanical and yet like sighing. The materials combine high and low tech. Although the experience is created by machine, the effect is of nature. It is both sinister and alien, but also reassuring and natural since the rhythm is of life.

I've always admired Armstrong's graphic works often graphite renderings of the sheets of handmade paper that she uses in her environments. They capture the delicate yet strong quality of her material and the work itself. In this show there are four drawings -- crumpled sheets of Abaca paper in plexiglass cases that are casually set on a ledge and backlit. They are sculpture as drawing as their marks derive from the creases. They are both minimal and expressionistic -- and haunting.

It is the duality of Armstrong's work that is compelling, a condition that comes naturally to this Alabama-bred woman who's built her own loft in New York, a real steel magnolia.
by Karen Chambers

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